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.

Wrestling with history

An update from Kim, a Master of Liberal Studies student: Southern writer and journalist Curtis Wilkie once described Willie Morris’ book North Toward Home as a seminal book for anyone who ever “wrestled with Mississippi.” In a very real sense, that’s what SMU’s civil rights pilgrims have been doing – and it’s not just a matter of wrestling with Mississippi, but with the large, uncomfortable legacy of the struggle for equal rights in the American South in the '50s and '60s.  By Thursday, the pilgrims had arrived on the hilly, green campus of the University of Mississippi to share dinner and a few stories with Wilkie, who knows a thing or two about this wrestling business: “I am a product of a segregated [...]

2012-03-19T15:16:54+00:00 March 18th, 2012|SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2012|

Scenes from Birmingham

An update from Kim, a Master of Liberal Studies student: It was Youth Sunday on September 15, 1963, when a bomb planted by the Ku Klux Klan went off just outside an outer wall behind the ladies lounge at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church.  Four little girls who were preparing for church - Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley - were killed in the explosion. The church had been the staging area for civil rights demonstrations that brought hundreds of Birmingham schoolchildren out of their schools and into the streets to march for their freedom. Bigotry and racial hatred ran so deep in Birmingham in the 1950s and early 1960s  that it [...]

2012-03-19T14:47:51+00:00 March 16th, 2012|SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2012|

16th Street Baptist Church

An update from Janelle, who is participating in the pilgrimage with her father, Ed: It was a beautiful day to remember such an ugly part of Birmingham’s history. I knew today was going to be a little difficult for me since we were headed to the 16th Street Baptist Church. Before going into the church, we crossed the street to Kelly Ingram Park and I stood at the corner envisioning what it must have looked like that day in 1963 when young students left the church with a demand for racial equality. At that moment, flashes of the infamous pictures of young children being blown over by fire hoses, and dogs being set free to attack, played like an unending slide [...]

2012-03-16T16:13:41+00:00 March 16th, 2012|SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2012|

HBCU visits

An update from A’Rielle, an accounting major and ethnic studies minor: I often have told my friends that I want to participate in some kind of exchange program at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). HBCUs are known for their history, communal experience, rich learning environment, and of course, Greek life. I am truly fascinated by HBCUs since I've had family members attend these institutions and my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, was founded on one. On day four of the Pilgrimage, we stopped at Alabama State University for lunch. Being surrounded by so many students who looked like me was very different, but equally amazing. I especially was interested in the reactions from students who had never been to an HBCU, or heard of one [...]

2012-03-16T15:18:09+00:00 March 16th, 2012|SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2012|

Change came as a 15-year-old girl

An update from Kim, a Master of Liberal Studies student: When 81-year-old Fred Gray came striding into the little museum in Tuskegee on Wednesday, to look at him was to imagine that time really does stand still. More than 50 years ago, he was the attorney for the civil rights movement. He carried the legal fight for Rosa Parks, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King, and the march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery in 1965. But there’s nothing “still” about Gray. His whole life has been about massive societal change, and on the day he met the SMU civil rights pilgrims, he was rushing between appointments surrounding the massive criminal case he is currently working. He perched on a [...]

2012-08-01T16:12:03+00:00 March 15th, 2012|SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2012|

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 [...]

2012-03-15T16:24:01+00:00 March 15th, 2012|SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2012|

Ordinary people, extraordinary courage

An update from Janelle, who is participating in the pilgrimage with her father, Ed: Last night, we had the pleasure of meeting Reverend and Mrs. Robert Graetz. As the only white member of the Montgomery Improvement Association, Reverend Graetz attracted quite a bit of attention. Moreover, because of his involvement with the boycott, they were often harassed. But, as a member of the clergy, he was unwavering in his involvement with the road to equality. As for Mrs. Graetz, she said it was a “circle of love” that protected them. And no threat, hatred or negative wish could penetrate that. When asked about raising his family during this time in Montgomery, Mrs. Graetz didn’t hesitate to chime in saying, “We [...]

2012-03-15T21:16:22+00:00 March 15th, 2012|SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2012|

Postcards from Montgomery

An update from Kim, a Master of Liberal Studies student: Imagine starting a day at the pulpit where Martin Luther King preached “It’s Safe to Murder Negroes in Montgomery,” and ending with a conversation with former NAACP chairman Julian Bond and two leaders of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  Our group is starting to experience a kind of historical (and sometimes emotional) whiplash. SMU’s civil rights pilgrims have been talking for days now about the importance of place in understanding the civil rights movement.  But when you bring people into the equation who lived through the movement, overlapping both time and place, it packs a wallop. We have followed the route of the 1965 voting rights march along U.S. [...]

2012-03-14T22:25:36+00:00 March 14th, 2012|SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2012|

In Dr. King’s footsteps

An update from Janelle, who is participating in the pilgrimage with her father, Ed: Today, I walked in Martin Luther King Jr.’s footsteps. I went to the church he led and the home in which he and his family lived. I stood in the pulpit. I felt pride as if I were his child, a member of his congregation or friend. I saw the couch at which he played with his kids, the table where he used to plan significant events that would turn the tides of society’s acceptance and tolerance of each other. Almost fifty years later, there is still an indentation on the porch where a bomb threatened the lives of the King family and thus, the life [...]

2012-03-15T16:57:04+00:00 March 14th, 2012|SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2012|
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