Spring Break Civil Rights Trip Brings History to Life

Traveling from Philadelphia, Pa. to Philadelphia, Miss., Ursinus students are spending their spring break immersed in the U.S. civil rights movement. Although the recent movie “Selma” sparked renewed national interest, Ursinus students have been making this pilgrimage for 10 years. 

The journey is part of the class, Religion and Civil Rights, taught by Professor Charles Rice, who is the College Chaplain. The class is based on the African American religious experience of the 1950s and 1960s and the role played by African American churches and social political organizations in cultivating change. Not only do students tour sites in Mississippi and Alabama, but they also have personal discussions with community leaders who have experienced the struggles of the that era. 

Students who made the trip in the past have said that having guides personally connected to the movement helped their reflection beyond the classroom. This year students will meet with Hollis Watkins, who participated in the 1961 Woolworth’s sit-in in McComb, Miss.; the Rev. Jerry Young, President of the National Baptist Convention; civil rights worker Rev. Ed King; attorney Constance Slaughter, the first African American female to receive a law degree from the University of Mississippi and the first African American female to serve in several capacities in Mississippi State government; Leroy Clemens, President of the NAACP in Philadelphia, Miss.; and others.

They will visit the Bryant’s Grocery, where  events led to the murder of 14-year-old  Emmett Till; the gravesite of voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer; the National  Voting Rights Museum in Selma; and other sites in Alabama and Mississippi that were important to the civil rights movement, or that teach about its significance.