By Sol Ayala
As 11 Trevecca students stood on the porch of Martin Luther King Jr.’s former home, the director of the museum who now oversees the house drove by and happened to see them.
Shirley Cherry, tour director at Dexter Parsonage Museum, stopped and talked with them about growing up in the segregated south.
“I wasn’t allowed to look at people in the eyes. Now that I can, I won’t stop doing it,” Cherry said to the group.
“That blew my mind, it totally changed my perspective from analyzing history,” said Elizabeth Landin, a student on the trip.. “This is still having repercussions today.”
Students in Jamie Casler’s Civil Rights Experience class spent three days visiting historical places relevant to the history behind the Civil Rights Movement that happened in the south decades ago.
On their first day, in Montgomery AL, they visited the Lynching Memorial, the Legacy Museum, and Dexter Parsonage Museum–once the house of Martin Luther King–due to Covid-19 restrictions they could not go into the house; instead, they stood at the porch.
“You think dates are in the past and then now you see things as a reality,” Landin said. “They just happened not so long ago.”
Casler, assistant professor and social justice director, has been doing the trip for seven years. This year to help him guide the tour, Casler invited professors Iris Gordon, adjunct faculty center for Social Justice, and Erica Hayden, associate professor history, sociology and psychology. Each of the professors had a chance to lecture on the different places they visited.
On Saturday, Feb 4, the group visited the Rosa Parks Museum, the same day as Rosa Parks birthday. The museum had cupcakes and the exhibition of the bus where Rosa Parks was arrested.
“To step into those places, to stand on the porch where Martin Luther King Jr lived, and to stand at the bus stop where Rosa Parks got on the bus in 1955,” said Hayden. “It means a lot more than just seeing in a textbook.”
Their next stop was Birmingham AL, there they visited the Civil Rights Institute, the 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park
“We step into history, learn from the past, to observe the present, and to know how we can work towards the future,” Casler said.
Their last stop for the three-day trip was Memphis TN, where they visited the Lorraine Motel. After a day of learning, the group spent the rest of the day in downtown Memphis, which is known for its blues and soulful music, and visited the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum.
“We try to incorporate some fun components to the trip. As it can be pretty heavy visiting all the civil rights spots, where a lot of tragedy took place historically,” Casler said.
Casler says the feedback he has received from the students over the years has given him hope. He says students leave the class inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and African American history, his students leave full of hope for a better future.
The class trip takes place every two years, and all students are able to take the class. It will be offered next during the spring of 2024.