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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The living legacy of the Little Rock Nine

roza-essaw-90.jpgAn update from Roza, a sophomore majoring in communication studies and political science:

Today marks the first day of the civil rights pilgrimage, and already it has been off to such a wonderful start.

Our first stop was the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. After studying the history of the nine students who put their lives at risk to integrate public schools, I was definitely looking forward to the visiting the actual site. Learning about the courage of the Little Rock Nine inside classrooms is one thing, but actually standing in the same place where they endured so much hate and ultimately paved the way for public school integration is incredible.

The historic site is located right next to the high school so we had an opportunity to see gripping photography, captivating photos and eye-opening videos about the Little Rock Nine. Our tour guide, Bryan, took the time to share stories about the nine students and imparted a lot of knowledge. I knew the nine students were extraordinary individuals, but I had no clue they were such intelligent and important movers and shakers of our society, even to this day. Forty years later, the nine children went on to graduate from Little Rock Central High School and now hold key positions in society. They are doctors, politicians, professors, writers, social workers; more importantly, all of them are a living testament of an important part of our history. They all make an attempt to make sure the story never dies by making annual visits to the high school and contributing to the civil rights movement through their daily works.

Hearing Bryan share this story just made me smile and appreciate the ingenuity of the civil rights movement. Too many times we look past at the movement without realizing how much thought and intricate detail was invested in the movement. Because while picking the nine students, civil rights activists did not just pick any nine students. Instead they chose the nine most brilliant, altruistic and kindhearted individuals. After spending hours visiting their high school and hearing about their stories, I felt connected to them in a whole new way. Not only did I walk away learning so much more about them, but I also left with a greater level of respect and appreciation for their courageous work.

I feel so lucky to be laughing and freely walking around in their school, all because of the hatred and life-threatening situation the nine children endured 40 years ago.

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