Thursday, April 24, 2014

News
Montgomery Church May Open as a Tourist Attraction in 2015
By Glenn Halbrooks


Organizers hope to open the historic Mt. Zion AME Zion Church in 2015 to tourists interested in learning about Montgomery's civil rights history.  

C.P. Everett is helping to lead the charge to save the church and an important piece of civil rights history. In 1955, just days after Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white person, a meeting happened inside the church's fellowship hall.

"An ad hoc committee called the Montgomery Improvement Association being organized and named here. A young Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., a young 26-year-old pastor, just assigned to Dexter, would be receiving his first leadership role," Everett said.

Ten years later, Selma-to-Montgomery marchers rested in the church. Those events got the attention of Hollywood, which made the church a backdrop for the 1990 movie "The Long Walk Home", starring Whoopi Goldberg. But after the Mt. Zion congregation moved and sold the church building, it faced a rapid decline, with holes piercing the roof and rubble everywhere.

In recent years, Everett has led a campaign to restore the church to how it looked in 1955. More than $1 million has been raised through grants and private donations to do the work. But he thinks $700,000 more will be needed to complete the job, hopefully by 2015 so it can open to those interested in learning more about its history.

So far, the project received money from several groups, including the Central Alabama Community Foundation, the Blount family as well as community development block grants. Everett says with the federal government sequester, he expects the grants will be harder to get.

If you'd like to help, send your donation to the Mount Zion Center Foundation at P.O. Box 4991 in Montgomery, Alabama 36104.