Sunday, June 05, 2005

Time for some follow-through

People in Gees Bend, a mostly black Wilcox County community in the heart of Alabama's Black Belt, had a ferry once. It let them reach Camden, the county seat where they got their food and medical care and other necessities, in 10 minutes instead of having to go an extra half-hour out of the way to cross the nearest bridge over the Alabama River.

Then, one day in the 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr., came to town, and the white people across the river got mad about it, and they shut down the ferry in retaliation. And that's how it stayed until 1996, when Congress pledged to pay to restore ferry service. The national media trumpeted the development with great fanfare; a Los Angeles Times reporter even won a Pulitzer Prize with a moving story about the isolated town.

Today, nine years, $695,000, and one journalism award later, Gees Bend still doesn't have a working ferry.

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