John McCain's second of three Alabama stops today was at a community center in Boykin where he was greeted at his bus by the famous Gee's Bend Quilters, who sang gospel tunes as he toured their facility and bought three quilts.
"Do lord, do lord, do remember me," a group of women sang as they walked McCain inside their facility. More hugs greeted him from other women when he made it inside as the song continued. After the song, McCain hugged another woman who started to cry as she raised her hands in praise.
"Thank you ladies for that wonderful welcome to a guy from Arizona," he said.
The Gee's Bend Quilters Collective is made up of four generations of African American women who create quilts, bringing money into the community. They have gained national acclaim as their quilts have been exhibited in museums across the country. In 2006, the U.S. Postal Service issued commemorative stamps featuring Gee's Bend quilts.
"I have heard of this wonderful place and I know that it has a place in history. I know Dr. [Martin Luther] King was here before the march in Selma, so they stopped running the Ferry. Now the ferry is running and I intend to ride the ferry back," he said. McCain then pulled a check from his wallet and handed it to the quilters, toured the facility and shopped.
The tour was accompanied by more gospel hymns and McCain even clapped along as the women sang. "Like a typical politician I forgot to sign the check," McCain suddenly realized during his tour, taking his check back to sign.
Gee's Bend is a poor, rural community located in southwest Alabama on a peninsula 5 miles long and 8 miles wide. It is named after Joseph Gee, the first white planter to settle there. It's population consists of mostly descendants of slaves, who were brought to Gee's Bend and remained as tenant farmers after emancipation. The Gee's Bend community lived in relative isolation for decades as it is surrounded by the Alabama River. Without a ferry service for decades, residents were confined by the river unless they made the hour-long drive to the county seat of Camden, directly across the river from Gee's Bend.