Civil Rights Pilgrimage South

During Spring Break 2011, students, faculty and staff are taking an eight-day bus ride to the American South’s civil rights landmarks. Political Science Professor Dennis Simon leads the pilgrimage with SMU’s Chaplain’s Office.

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How did the Little Rock Nine do it?

Kimberly.jpg An update from Kimberly, a first-year student planning to major in political science and international studies with a minor in human rights:

Today, I did not know what to expect. I awoke early; trying to be ready by Ray’s deadline … Roza and I were late anyway. How embarrassing!

Our first stop was Little Rock Central High School. Of course I’ve seen it in dozens of textbooks, class presentations, and on the internet, but I had absolutely no idea of how huge it was. The campus is gigantic. It is a beautifully built institution, but its history is harsh.

The museum was very interesting, but I couldn’t wait to get on the campus. So, Hanna and I went together before anyone else. We took our pictures and explored, trying to find our way in … no luck. Near the top of the high school there are four statues that read “ambition, personality, opportunity, and preparation.” I can only assume these words are the motto of the school. My question is, how effective are these words in describing the Little Rock Nine? What did all the hatred do to their ambitions? Did it encourage them; discourage them? How did their personalities change? What opportunities did they seek? Finally, how do you prepare to walk down the street to class every morning with adults claiming they will kidnap you and mutilate you and lynch you?

I don’t think I could’ve done it. Actually, I know I wouldn’t have been able to. It gives me such an uneasy feeling within. I tried to imagine how it felt to walk slowly down the sidewalk, up several dozen stairs, and through the door into a white school through a crowd of a thousand hateful people. No one will really ever know.

Next we made our way to Jackson to the home of Medgar Evers. I remember what the home looked like and special things here and there, but his blood, that’s really all I remember. To stand where he was shot and bleeding to death was so disturbing to me. I felt sick even looking at it, but it made his assassination so real.

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