Spring break civil rights/ southern music tour

Civil rights photoby Rebekah Warren

On a Friday afternoon in Alabama, Julie Gant stood where Martin Luther King Jr. had heard the voice of God.

“I was impacted by just being where he was,” said Gant. “We stood where he stood and talked where he talked to people. We were in his home, everywhere that revolved around him and his legacy.”

During spring break, Matt Spraker, associate dean of students for community life, and Jamie Casler, director of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice travelled with 12 students through Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, experiencing the civil rights and musical history of the south.

Spraker developed the idea for the trip after an important member of the civil rights movement came to Trevecca.

“We had Fred Gray, who was the attorney for Rosa Parks, speak in chapel…and it just blew me away that I got to meet this person and he just had to travel up from Alabama,” said Spraker. “It just hit me how close we are geographically to a lot of very important parts of American history.”

The students began in Memphis with the National Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Hotel, the location of Martin Luther King’s assassination. They also visited Sun Studios, the place where Elvis began his career. According to Spraker, race issues and music are inseparable in American culture.

“Race has played in to modern music with the blues, and jazz, and rock and roll,” said Spraker. “This is a good way to get people who are interested in music to learn about the civil rights part and then people who are into civil rights, who may not realize it’s impact on music in our culture.”

Gant was especially moved by how close history was to the present. Students stood at poignant locations, such as Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, which was unchanged since the time of the infamous march to Montgomery, Alabama that put Selma on the map.

“Its astounding because people talk about this movement as if it occurred during the dark ages,” said Gant. “The majority of information we learned took place less than a century ago.”

Part of the trip’s purpose was to provide a common experience for students from different backgrounds and majors.

“There was a diversity of the students and a diversity of majors,” said Casler. “Seeing different students from different backgrounds come together and share a common experience definitely made it a successful week.”

This story first appeared on the Micah Mandate. 

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