It is only day four of the Pilgrimage, and I feel as if I already have a book’s worth of history from the foot soldiers of the movement. We spent the last two days in Montgomery, Alabama, talking with the Rev. Robert and Jeannie Graetz and the Harris family. On the night of the first discussion, everyone was leaning in their chairs to get every word these historymakers had to say.
It was an honor to be introduced to the Harris family and hear how they contributed to Freedom Summer by secretly housing the Freedom Riders in Alabama. We are acquainted with the common faces of the movement, but I soon recognized that the movement was thousands of people.
Hearing the Harris’ history, I thought it very interesting to compare it to the Selma history. Dr. Velda Montgomery’s experience when she was 8 years old, wondering why her parents housed 40 to 50 people for a couple of weeks, in contrast to Joanne’s experience as an 8-year-old, arrested at the steps of the Selma Courthouse, fighting for the right to vote.
Through the Pilgrimage thus far, I have seen several perspectives of foot soldiers who contributed to different aspects of the movement. Each fought for the overarching goal of human equality and the end of discrimination. As Dr. Montgomery said during the discussion, the movement could be described in one word: unity. The movement involved everyone – black, white, child, parent, pastor, pharmacy store owner, etc. – who all came together for a common cause.
I have seen and heard so much already, but there’s even more with the second half of the Pilgrimage. Onward to Philadelphia, Mississippi!