Students to visit civil rights sites over spring break

By Samuel Cheung

A little over 50 years ago, students and civil rights leaders attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery in protest of discrimination against African-Americans. Now nearly half a century later, students will have the chance to visit the site of their historical journey in a pilgrimage of their own.

A group of 50 University students will be going on the University Housing’s African-American Civil Rights Pilgrimage covering nine days, nine cities and 2,500 miles.

Over spring break, the students will have the opportunity to visit museums and hear from historical experts and local guides about sit-ins, bus rides, marches and other events in the civil rights movement and African-American history.

The cities on the pilgrimage include Atlanta, Little Rock in Arkansas, Memphis in Tennessee, Greensboro in North Carolina, Charleston in South Carolina and Tuskegee, Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma in Alabama.

Their itinerary includes notable sites such as the Greensboro International Civil Rights Museum, which seeks to memorialize the stand of the Greensboro Four; the Rosa Parks Museum, which holds a collection of items and exhibits associated with the Montgomery Bus Boycott; Little Rock, famous for Little Rock nine, and sites dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr.

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Ronald Oliver, a sophomore in early childhood education, and Maria De La Luz Valenzuela, a sophomore in history and latino studies, planned this year’s trip after going on previous civil rights pilgrimages.

“We always learn about the concept of civil rights, however this trip opened my eyes to stuff that wasn’t typical,” Oliver said. “I was able to learn about an array of different people that I have never heard about and an array of stories that I have never heard about. This trip has allowed me to explore my interest in Civil Rights.”

Xochitl Esparza, a freshman in DGS, said that she was excited to visit places that she had only heard about in her classes.

“I learned about the conflicts in Memphis and Little Rock in my (Labor and Employment Relationship) class,” he said. “So getting the opportunity to go to these places is what interested me.”

Valenzuela said that her previous experience attending the pilgrimage gave her insight as to what impacts students the most.

“I had a great experience last semester so I wanted to be able to shape the experiences of the kids that go on this trip,” Valenzuela said.

In particular, Valenzuela said that the location of the clash in Selma between Alabama police and King and other marchers was one of the sights that had the greatest impact on her.

“I am looking forward to Edmund Pettus Bridge where Bloody Sunday occurred,” she said. “These places give me goosebumps.”

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