SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2012

During spring break 2012, students, faculty and staff are taking a nine-day bus ride through the American South to visit civil rights landmarks and leaders in the movement. Political Science Professor Dennis Simon leads the pilgrimage with SMU’s Chaplain’s Office.

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This history must not be forgotten

An update from Bethany, a senior and the student coordinator of the Pilgrimage:

The Civil Rights Pilgrimage is not new to me. Two years ago I embarked on this journey that forever changed my life, and I then made it my responsibility to assure the continued success of the CRP by becoming the Student Coordinator.

The CRP, to me, is not just a deviation from the Spring Break norm. It is instead an enriching experience focused on a time in history about which many people have become ignorant. It is unfortunate that Black History is being erased from the history books. The Civil Rights Movement was such an important movement that changed America politically and socially. It had a profound impact on the lives of Americans, and it is still impacting us to this day.

The Civil Rights Movement can explain phenomena such as the development of our political parties and the evolution of public school systems. It is for this reason I become so upset that Americans are graduating each year from high school deficient in an understanding of the Civil Rights Movement. It is this feeling of frustration that ignites my passion to continue educating others on this disturbing time in our nation’s history and of the resilient warriors who kept marching on.

Saturday, March 10:

Saturday morning we woke up to a beautiful sunrise stretching over Little Rock, Arkansas. As I walked the streets in front of Little Rock Central High, I couldn’t help but see Elizabeth Eckford. She was walking up the street alone. No one to protect her, no one to cry to, and no one to block the hate that wanted to harm her. As she approached the intersection of LRCHS the angry mob yelled out, “There’s one!” They immediately pursued her; cursing and yelling at her. She looked for a friendly face, but there was none. The dress that took her two weeks to make was soiled from spit. She was not allowed to go to school that day.

The right to an education was not afforded to all. Education meant knowledge. It meant the power to no longer be bound and oppressed. Education harnesses a power that at that time segregationists did not want blacks to obtain. It was not the case that Brown v. Board was decided upon, and then whites and blacks went to school happily ever after. No, it was a deadly struggle that caused physical and psychological wounds. For the Little Rock Nine and other blacks, many of them suffer from stress disorders and cannot speak in large groups. It scarred them. They were beaten, yelled at, spit on, cussed at, and yet are the strongest people I know.

That night the bus headed from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Jackson, Mississippi, to the home of Medgar Evers. Medgar Evers was a civil rights activist who devoted his life to social justice. Mr. Evers was shot in his driveway in front of his family. How could somebody do such a horrible thing in front of his family? An innocent man shot in the back by a coward who could not face the advancement of colored people.

Inside his home, I imagined his son. He was weeping for his father as his mother held him close to her. Outside the home on the driveway lay his blood. After all these years, it had not washed away. It serves as a reminder that evil has not washed itself away – and neither has violence from hate groups.

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    One Response to This history must not be forgotten

    1. Julius Mwangi says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience. In a big way it speaks to those who may not have joined you in the pilgrimage. Its motivating, an encouragement, and certainly an enlightenment – that profound information- first hand – priceless!

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