As mentioned during part-one of my historic journey to Selma with Andre Hudson, Hyundai’s first African American car designer, it was a life-changing moment for both us.
For the first time, in the history of the auto industry, two brothers had teamed-up to impart their wisdom, as it related to encouraging minority students to enlarge their vision through the eyes of a car designer, while at the same time providing them with the appropriate tools needed to navigate life through the use of my copyrighted car-buying literacy workshop. Besides a typical drive-by for a career day event, such an extensive program had never been done before, especially in the South.
Now since Hudson and I were born after the Voting Rights Act was instituted, this trip was two-fold for us. This trip also helped us to bridge the gap unlike what any history book or documentary has been able to do ….. to the Voting Rights Movement. In fact, this historic trip connected us in a way to our past that neither one of us could have ever imagined.
While many of us have often wondered why Selma, as opposed to Montgomery or Birmingham (also known as “Bombingham” during the turbulent sixties) was selected by Dr. King (and others) as the national focus of the voting rights movement, after our extensive personal tour provided by the City of Selma and the Selma City Schools, we were no longer in doubt.
We learned that due to the Selma’s dismal voting record in the early sixties, it led the Justice Department to request the voting records from the county register. According to the records, out of the 15,000 folks of voting age in the county, only 156 residents color were registered. And this was due to some of the same factors we are still facing today, but just in a different form.
At that time, eligible voters were denied the right to vote through the use of literacy tests, poll taxes and just blatant intimidation. Today, the latest voter suppression tactic requires us to have the appropriate photo identification card.
With that said, in the sixties, Selma had a contentious, hot-headed sheriff who both harassed and discouraged our folks from voting. So, with Dr. King being the head (and one of the founders) of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), he along with some of the locals civil rights advocates of Selma knew that by selecting this small southern city this would draw the national attention that was needed to lead America to the rights many of us take for granted today.
Yes, this Southern city, which is located in the middle of nowhere, is literally the bridge that laid the groundwork for electing President Obama. Just imagine: what would Dr. King (and other civil right advocates) have done had they had access to the latest social media tools?
Ironically, after our emotional walk down memory lane, visiting pivotal places in history, it didn’t take long for us to put things in perspective. Without this town, we immediately realized we probably wouldn’t have a young brother living his dream, designing award-winning cars for a Korean company. Our career options would have been regulated to being a preacher, teacher or possibly building cars, all of which are admirable professions.
Again, when Hudson and I teamed-up, our initial goals were to both educate and stimulate our young brothers and sisters from Selma High. Coincidentally, the elders of the city of Selma did the same for us, providing us with a first-hand account of what it was like to live in one of the hot beds of the South.
As Oprah would say, “This was a full circle moment.” With that said, take a moment to thumb through the photo gallery to capture our three-day trip to historic Selma, as we visited such places as Tabernacle Baptist, Brown Chapel AME, the National Voting Rights Museum and Selma High School. Unfortunately, pictures alone can’t fully describe our journey. So, as you’re planning your summer vacation or next road trip, Selma should be on your radar.
Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to JeffCars.com. Follow him at Twitter/JeffCars.