Ian Ward ’19 – Today, I along with my classmates visited Nashville, as well as the site of the Highlander school. There was a sense of new understanding, as well as a curiosity and even a sense of awe.
This new understanding was in the realm of me knowing that Nashville was in fact traditionally very segregated, and only after local campaigns and action did substantive change occur. What I mean by this, is that up until a change in policy in November 1960 Nashville was very segregated, and its mayor stood by the policy as just and legal, as well as the way things needed to be. Due to this stance, locals began to conduct peaceful sit-ins in early 1960 and over a period of many months public pressure mounted to the level that lunch counters were desegregated. This new understanding also included in learning about the mastermind of the Nashville movement: James Lawson. This former divinity student with a deep understanding of Gandhi – like protest styles took the lead in teaching non-violent principles to locals and helped the movement become the success that is was.
This learning of Lawson led me to curiosity in the aspect that I have never heard of him in common literature, and outside the Nashville Movement his role seems more behind the scenes. Why? I can’t answer that particular question, however it seems that like many that weren’t the pillars of the Civil Rights Movement, our education system seems to overlook the many and focus on the few that are very recognizable, and at least in theory “easier” to explain.
My awe in Nashville regarding the civil Rights Movement began when, we were able to see a site of a sit in (what was then and is now) a Walgreens. Seeing a place where history happened gives what we have read about more of a purpose. It also makes you realize that behind all the images, the actions that made up the Civil Rights Movement did happen in all of its glory for African Americans and shame for the oppressors. Also, we were able to see the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library where one quote by Martin Luther King Jr. really sums up the movement in Nashville – “I came to Nashville not to bring inspiration, but to gain inspiration from the great movement that has taken place in this community.” This quote struck me in the aspect that it highlights Nashville’s not only independence from the larger movement, but also highlighted the success of Nashville and that Non-Violence was the way to go to succeed
From Nashville, we stopped briefly at the Highlander Folk School Site, where it is clear that there were in fact that secluded, and also that it is a serene place for learning and contemplation in such a tumultuous time. This is what I personally gathered from day one of Wally on Wheels and I only know that from here my experience will only get better.