Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2010

During Spring Break 2010, students, faculty and staff are taking an eight-day bus ride to the American South’s civil rights landmarks, with stops in Little Rock, Arkansas; Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama; Jackson and Oxford, Mississippi; and Memphis, Tennessee. They will be led by Ray Jordan of the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life; Dennis Simon, associate professor of political science in Dedman College; and junior Linwood Fields, a political science and English major who participated in the 2009 pilgrimage.

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A commitment to justice

RonCivilRightsPilgrimage.jpg An update from Master of Liberal Studies student Ron:

Montgomery is 50-some miles and years apart from Selma. Known as the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement, it shows what a historical low employment (3-4 percent just two years ago) can do for a community.

A day is spent touring the significant landmarks and places of the movement … from the spot where Jefferson Davis was declared president of the Confederacy, to where slaves were first gathered and sold, to Dr. King’s home and church.

Our first stop is the one I was really looking forward to … the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to the organization, the SPLC is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education and other forms of advocacy, the Center works toward the day “when the ideas of equal justice will be a reality.”

photo-12.jpg The Center also honors the memory of the individuals who died during the Civil Rights Movement. At the center, your tour guide clearly points out that during the Civil Rights Movement, a revolution took place in America. You not only feel it but walk from the center believing it and maybe understanding it a little better. (In photos: The Civil Rights Memorial honors 40 who died and chronicles the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Visitors are encouraged to touch the name of each martyr in the slow-moving water.)

photo-11.jpg Before leaving, the SPLC representative asked us to make a commitment to work in our daily lives for justice, equality and human rights – the ideals of the Civil Rights Movement. A Wall of Tolerance records the names of people who made that commitment … many of us did.

photo-10.jpg After lunch at Alabama State University, which is a historically black university, we visit the Dexter Parsonage Museum and the house where Dr. King and his family lived from 1954 to 1960 in the area known as Centennial Hill. (In photo: Dr. King led this church from 1954 to 1960, the only church he served as the pastor.)

It was a small but beautifully handcrafted home with many of the original pieces of furniture displayed in several rooms of the house. The front porch shows a large crack and small crater where a bomb was thrown and exploded, setting off a hostile response by Dr. King’s neighbors that he was able to calm down and send them peacefully back to their houses. We also got to see the actual kitchen table where one late night he was ready to quit, and after prayer and meditation he continued the struggle.

The world is a much better place because he did.

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