Civil Rights Road Trip: Derse’s Blog

Joshua Derse ’18 — As noted in the vlog with Adam, visiting the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee was a great capstone to the entire trip. The Museum did a fantastic job at telling the story of colored people’s struggle for equality and civil rights from the early days of slavery to the present day. What impacted me the most was how in depth and detailed the information the museum was when presented to you. Being in the political science part of the course and being a political science major, you do deal a lot with dates and timelines. Doing this can in a way dehumanize the events one is studying and it can cause one to barely scratch the surface as to the real meaning of the events of the Civil Rights Movement. One way that this trip has impacted me is that it has made me understand more the profound struggle of African Americans and others for equality and civil rights in America. Hearing their voices through recordings and having their struggles come to life through the artifacts and primary sources allowed me to view the Civil Rights Movement through a completely different lens. This dynamic and unique view certainly would not have been possible to have if the course and its experiences were solely confined to the Wabash campus.

The music aspect of this course cannot and never should be separated from this immersion experience. The music aspect of the course is invaluable. After this experience I have a whole new understanding for the African American music and even the genre of blues. Talking to Ms. Diane Harriss from Selma, one thing she touched on was how the music of the Civil Rights Movement helped keep her and others around her sane at times. Hearing this made me realize how intertwined the politics and the music of the movement were at the time and even still today. Ms. Harriss’ testimony showed how the music served as the backbone and source of identity for the black community during the Civil Rights Movement.

In Memphis, visiting the Loraine Motel was quite an experience. This was the motel that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at on April 4th, 1968. Standing in rooms 306 and 307 (King’s rooms) was just a surreal experience. Seeing those rooms in person made the events and the feelings associated with those evets all the more real. Standing in the motel there was definitely a somber feeling at all times. It was almost as if you could feel the mood in the air, the same mood of uneasiness and sadness that followed the death of King. In totality, visiting this museum gave an in-depth look into the complete history of the Civil Rights Movement. The important part was that at no time did I feel that the story the museum told was complete. This conveyed the message that the struggle for civil rights worldwide still goes on.