Bus tour visits museum

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2005

GREENSBORO-Flooding rains could not wash away the enthusiasm of the Birmingham group Community Education South Saturday as they toured historic spots along the Black Belt. The group made their way through Lyons Hall, and Gaineswood in Demopolis, but it was their last stop in Greensboro that seemed to get the most attention.

When the group visited the Safe House, a house where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was given shelter on his way to Selma in the 1960’s the group heard enlightening stories from two women who were crucial to the movement.

Theresa Burroughs, founder of the Safe House, was there the night Dr. King stayed at the house. Burroughs said the fact that they were able to keep Dr. King safe despite threats by the Ku Klux Klan was the inspiration for the name.

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“We call it the safe house because we kept him safe here that night,” Burroughs said. “At about 4:30 a.m. the next morning we took him on Highway 80 into Selma. We kept him safe and that is why we call it the safe house.”

Burroughs said the museum is filled with pictures and memorabilia to guide people through the turbulent time. She said most visitors find the museum very interesting and educational.

“We have several pictures of people inside and stories of the civil rights movement,” Burroughs said. “We love having people come so we can share it with them. Most of the time people come in they want to stay and we love having them.”

Dora McQueen, coordinator for The Safe House was also a key contributor to the civil rights movement in Alabama. McQueen said they enjoy having visitors come share the museums history.

“I just feel proud of this museum,” McQueen said. “We welcome visitors and hope they enjoy looking at it as much as we enjoy having them.”

The purpose of the historic tour through the Black Belt was to education their members on how hard things really were for Black Belt residents. Virginia Volker, who helped organize the tour, said it was part of a widespread community effort to educate their citizens on the true stories of Alabama history.

“This is part of our community education program with the Birmingham School System called Community School South,” Volker said. “Community school is school after hours for before and after school children and lifelong learning experiences for adults. This particular tour is an educational historical tour.”

Volker said they wanted to show people the story within the story of the civil rights movement in the Black Belt.

“We wanted people to understand that the Black Belt was a lot more than hoop skirts and antebellum houses,” Volker said. “Antebellum houses are a part of it, but we wanted to tell the real story of who built those houses in a way to discuss the whole heritage.”

The tour was designed to tell the story of what had transpired and how it affected the Black Belt as it exists today. Volker said the 1960’s had an enormous impact on how the state has been shaped.

“We wanted to look at what the heritage really is and where we are today,” Volker said. “We wanted to take the heritage of a group of people who over came being enslaved and then overcame segregation and by the civil rights movement took all of us as Americans to a new level of Democracy.”

The Safe House Black History Museum is open to the public and tours can be arranged by calling 334-624-2030. They welcome large or small groups, especially school children. The museum is located at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Davis Street.