Jacques Boulais ’19 — Wednesday November, 22, 2017: The fourth day of our adventure through the deep south studying the civil rights movement. We woke up at the Embassy Suites in Birmingham, Alabama. The bus left at 8 AM but our group of students had already adapted to the road trip lifestyle. We had already visited Nashville, Atlanta, Selma, and many monuments of significance in between. Our course has been immersive from day one with readings, podcasts, and first-hand documents from the civil rights movement, however, the immersion trip has made the textbooks come to life.
We arrived in Selma, Alabama, at Brown Chapel where we heard the personal accounts of Dianne Harris during the marches in 1965. After we listened to her moving stories of volunteering as a high school aged protester, we all linked arms and sang “We Shall Overcome,” a popular freedom song that became the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. Our classes were unified and inspired by the courageous work of the foot soldiers that marched before us as we marched on the memorial trail to the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge. We stopped by a trail marker that had a picture of Diane when she was marching in 1965. Seeing her stand next to her monument made the movement come to life. All of a sudden, the movement that had seemed so distant when were studying in the classroom was right before our eyes. It was a surreal moment walking through Selma and over the bridge thinking about what I would have done if I was a part of the march. While we walked I couldn’t help but think about how different life was in Selma just over 50 years ago. Although we have seen the monuments of many tragedies, there has been much progress in the south.