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 violence of Freedom Summer

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

Today marks the conclusion of another successful day! It seemed like an ordinary Sunday; we all got up early in the morning, got dressed and made our way to church. Except it wasn’t just any church, it was Mt. Zion Methodist Church, infamously known as the Freedom Summer murder church. At this very church where my classmates and I had worship service this morning, voting rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered. On June 21, 1964, these three men came to investigate the burning of Mt. Zion Church and were viciously murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Members of the church welcomed us with open hearts and treated us with the finest hospitality. They hosted a special Sunday service just for us, served us dinner and took the time to share some of the atrocities they had to endure as African American members of the community. After hearing some of the most saddening stories, I walked away from the church realizing the importance of taking the time to share the stories of the movement. As painful as it must be for these activists to stand up and say, “my mother was beaten by a member of the KKK and I too was victimized,” at the same time silence won’t do justice to such a pivotal point in our history. In order to keep the movement alive, these stories need to be told over and over again.

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