Over the rivers and through the woods traveled 39 PLNU students and faculty to Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia on a Civil Rights Pilgrimage. The trip took place March 2-9 and focused on African-American history and the broader problem of racism and injustice in the United States.
“I am deeply grateful to have taken this journey with a community of students, staff and faculty,” said Vice President of Spiritual Development Mary Paul. “I have been to the South before (though not Alabama) and found the experience so enriched by hearing and observing the responses, reactions and reflections of others.”
Quaint and humble, the Lorraine Motel stands in Memphis, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and is connected to the National Civil Rights Museum. This was the first stop of the pilgrimage and perhaps one of the most educational and eye-opening moments. It details the beginning of the slave trade then moves through the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, and details the life of MLK and the technicalities of his death.
Later that day, everyone visited the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum. At first, it appeared to be an ordinary one-story white house, with a large evergreen tree out in the front yard. However, inside was a secret passageway to a basement where runaway slaves would hide.
“It’s crazy how cramped, dark and unpleasant it was,” said Sarah Keung, PLNU junior nursing major. “However, for them being down there meant the exact opposite; it meant safety and protection and comfort. That experience really opened my eyes to the conditions they were put in and gave me so much more admiration and respect for those who were so courageous and fearless in the midst of impending death.”
After a five-hour bus ride, the pilgrims had the privilege to sing at the 53rd Annual Bloody Sunday Celebration at Brown Chapel in Selma, Alabama on May 4. United States senators, congressmen and women, and participants of the original Bloody Sunday march attended the service. Following the church service, the travelers had the opportunity to march across Edmund Pettus bridge with thousands of people to remember the tragedy of Bloody Sunday. The day concluded with fellowship at a local Nazarene church.
Monday morning, the group visited Southside High School. Three years prior, PLNU had raised $10,000 for Southside’s football program and went to Selma over the summer to help refurbish the weight room and the gym and give the football team new uniforms. Next, after stopping by a Confederate cemetery, the group visited an elderly home to sing a few songs and commune with the residents.
The next day began cloudy at the Rosa Parks Museum. The pilgrims toured the Alabama State Capitol building and walked a few hundred feet to one of the churches MLK pastored at, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. A tour of the first Confederate White House followed.
Wednesday began in Birmingham, Alabama at the 16th Street Baptist Church and the National Civil Rights Museum. The travelers also had the opportunity to visit Bethel Baptist Church. The day concluded with a bus drive to Atlanta.
In Atlanta, the group visited the Human Rights Museum.
“I think the most memorable place we visited was the National Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta, Georgia,” said Ana Marie Manotas, PLNU senior nursing major. “Even though it was the heaviest day, it exposed [me] to the raw injustices and the triumphs throughout the Civil Rights Era. It helped piece everything that we learned throughout the week together.”