Today is the third day of January term trip to historic Civil Rights sites in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. It is part of a two and half week course on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the history of the Civil Rights movement.
This afternoon we visited the Voting Rights Museum in Selma, AL. It was here in 1964-1965 where voting rights came to the forefront of America’s conscience. Voting for most blacks in the south was very difficult. Most blacks were not registered to vote and were prevented by doing so by shortened office hours at the registrar’s office, excessive poll taxes and difficult exams that covered the most minuscule details of the U.S. Constitution. But many times, many blacks were kept from registering to vote by the threat or reality of violence. Imagine the worst image regarding the KKK or lynchings; most of these took place in the southern states as a way to “keep blacks in their place.”
One of the highlights for me was meeting the wife of James Bevel by accident. Mr. Bevel was a strategist for many marches and other demonstrations that took place in the Civil Rights movement. If you ever see pictures of marches in Birmingham, AL, you will see pictures of boys and girls being sprayed by fire hoses or bitten by K-9 units. The idea to use children in marches came from James Bevel. While this is a terribly frightening idea, it helped bring an end to segregation in the most segregated city in the south. Mr. Bevel convinced Dr. King, Revered Fred Shuttlesworth and other leaders that if young children were permitted to become Christians and church members (as many Baptist churches believe), they were able to make the choice to march in demonstrations or not.
Tomorrow we visit Montgomery, AL where Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott took place from Dec. 1, 1955 to Dec. 20, 1956.