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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

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Civil rights struggle opens doors

By Joycelyn Biggs | | March 6, 2014


Military and civilian personnel from Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany visited the Albany Civil Rights Institute Feb. 28 as part of a professional military education session.

“It is very valuable for us to see the road to freedom,” Col. Don Davis, commanding officer, MCLB Albany, said.

“You don’t easily erase your house being burned down. You don’t easily erase a loved one being lynched,” he added. “You do not easily erase the atrocities that occurred only 50 years ago.

“It’s not to live in the past, but to understand where we have come from.” Davis continued as he addressed about 50 personnel from MCLB Albany. “The objective today was to get you talking about it with love.”

During the tour, the group was directed to a mock bus station. A life-sized front portion of a bus protruded from one wall, with two doors leading to a waiting area on an adjacent wall.

Above one door, a sign read, “white waiting room,” with the other reading, “colored waiting room.”

Emma Richardson, tour guide, Albany Civil Rights Institute, explained back in the 1960s blacks were not allowed to go through the “white waiting room” door. 

“I went through the ‘white waiting room’ door,” Patricia Cowling, acting deputy comptroller, MCLB Albany, said.  “My parents and grandparents did not have the right to walk through that door. Because of their struggles, I can. People actually lost their lives for this. It is very symbolic. I felt it necessary to walk through the ‘white waiting room’ door.”

Once inside the room, attendees were able to view a replica of a restaurant booth and a home from the 1960s. They were also able to listen to audio recordings and read placards, which explained different events that took place in Albany during the civil rights movement.

The Albany Civil Rights Institute was only one stop during the professional military education trip. After the tour of the institute, the group also toured neighboring Shiloh Baptist Church.

The tiny church has been completely renovated to preserve the original look from the era, according to Richardson.

While some upgrades have been made, many original fixtures are intact. All the benches in the church are original. Despite new heating and cooling systems in the church, the original means of heating  and cooling are still present.

A tiny heating radiator sits in a back corner of the church. Two large industrial fans are also still situated in front of the church.  

“(The Rev.) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came and stood in the pulpit here before going to Birmingham, Ala.,” Horace Boyd, pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church, said. “This is where the civil rights movement began.”

To commemorate the start of the movement, a trail of permanent footprints is in front of the church and traces the path protestors walked to the Albany bus station.

“Those footprints represent our fore parents setting the foundation and leaving a pathway for us to follow,” Annette Williams, financial management analyst, MCLB Albany, said. “You know, parents back then would never allow their children to go anywhere before they made sure it was safe.

“I feel those footprints represent our parents going before us, trying to remove the dangers and leaving a better path for us,” she said.