Civil Rights Bus Tour

Seeking insight into some of the most challenging questions still left unanswered in America, a bus full of community college faculty and education leaders embarked on a Civil Rights Bus Tour in late November. Their journey through history spans from Jackson to Philadelphia, Mississippi, from Selma to Birmingham, Alabama.

Past itinerarires included visits to:

  • Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, Philadelphia, MS

  • Meridian Freedom Project

  • First Union Missionary Baptist Church

  • Pettis Bridge in Selma, AL

  • Rosa Parks Museum

  • Southern Poverty Law Center

  • Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

  • 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL

and conversations with: 

  • Peggy Gibson, Pastor at the Mt. Zion Union Methodist Church, church that was burned down by KKK

  • Jewel Rush McDonald and Evelyn Cole Calloway, survivors of the Mt. Zion attack

  • Anna Stevenson, Program Development Director of the Meridian Freedom Project

  • Doug Jones, US Attorney, who led the team of prosecutors and investigators in re-opened the historic “cold case” of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham

  • Jerry Mitchell, who worked to put four Klansmen behind bars for: their assassination of NAACP leaders Medgar Evers and Vernon Dahmer; the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four girls; and for the killings of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.

The experience focuses on both places and stories that delve deep into the civil rights movement, lifting up the narratives that shaped the past and inform the present. Participants heard firsthand accounts from civil rights leaders The John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, host of MS Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP), and the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama organized the powerful experience where participants heard firsthand accounts from civil rights leaders. These are meaningful lessons for students, educators and allies today as the deep racial divides and tragedies of the Civil Rights era echo today’s struggle for equity and social justice. Share in the reflections and themes recounted by participants moved by their experience:

John Merrow, IEL Board Member, participated in the tour this year and published a two-part blog entitled Will the Past Be Repeated?

Mary Kingston Roche, Director of Public Policy at the Coalition for Community Schools, IEL, and DC EPFP (’10-11) published a post in the Huffington Post entitled The Fragility of Justice and the Ordinary Heroes Who Must Uphold It. In it she recounts the key themes that emerged for her: forgiveness, remembrance, courage, and unity.          

Ashley A. Smith, reporter at Inside Higher Ed, published an article with moving quotes and embedded videos to imerse the reader. Her coverage, called Community college leaders take civil rights bus tour with goal of solving problems today looks forward to ways participants were motivated to apply their learning.

Another participant on the tour, Bob Bartle, was inspired to write a poem, Civil Liberties Christmas.




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