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Nashville; an interesting case to Ward

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.


Malone Experiences Civil Rights Movement

Rogeno Malone ’20 – Today marked the commencement of the ‘Wally on Wheels’ immersion trip through the south – we traversed through Tennessee and ultimately stopped in Georgia. Throughout the day I have reflected on two experiences and their implications to Civil Rights.

The first, a lunch with Ben Whitehouse, class of ’99, who is currently investigating legal documents from the Highlander Folk School. Highlander was conceived in Tennessee with the vision of building leaders of tomorrow. Highlander equipped it’s students with a social consciousness foreign to the community around it. Additionally, the school exemplified diversity – diverse thought, race, gender, etc. What I discovered from Whitehouse was that the school was investigated and later closed due to negligible charges; furthermore, the community degraded the school’s name with heinous allegations.

What I struggled to comprehend from this interaction was the backlash of the community. Albeit conceived during a period of increased racial tension in the country, Highland produced good.

Civil Rights demonstrators, community leaders, and single-issue activists can trace their non-violent tactics back to the school. Highlander sought to inspire and change the ideologies of students such that their focus shifted from ‘me’ to ‘we.’ I believe this encounter with Whitehouse introduced me to the severity of institutional racism present during the Civil Rights era.

The second, a trip to Fisk University – specifically speaking with Dr. Kwami about the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Before the trip my class, the History of African American Music, learned of the Jubille Singers. This small group of singers, formed mid-19th century, sought to support their institution financially through singing on tours. Initially they were met with backlash; yet, once they performed songs pertinent to their culture – spirituals, their success grew along with their ability to support Fisk. Hearing Dr. Kwami expand on the history of the singers left me in a sense of awe, I am astounded how students my age fearlessly spread their culture to potentially, unreceptive ears.

Overall, I believe that both experiences connect to a theme regarding the Civil Rights Movement and this trip – commitment. It has been theorized that you are invested in a cause if you are willing to die for it. Examples such as Martin Lither King Jr., Highlander students, and the Jubilee singers exemplify this point through their commitment to what they believed, a commitment to justice and change.


Civil Rights Road Trip: David Ortega ’20

Sign at location of Nashville Sit-in during Civil Rights Movement

Sign at location of Nashville Sit-in during Civil Rights Movement

David Ortega ’20 – Our immersion trip began with a brief tour of Nashville, TN by a Wabash alumnus. The alumnus spoke about the history of the Civil Rights Movement and how Nashville was at the time. Immediately, we witnessed pieces of history from the movement still present. The group walked passed a Walgreens that is open and running, which was also open during the CRM. The Walgreens was also where a sit-in took place in 1960 when Walgreens had a lunch counter. The establishment that used to openly support segregation serves as a reminder to present day society of the tensions felt less than a hundred years ago. After, our group went to Capitol Grounds, where we saw monuments and memorials. The most surprising part of this experience was the giant statue commemorating Edward Carmack, who is best known for driving Ida B Wells out of town. Primarily, I had never considered Tennessee as part of the South. Regardless of Tennessee having segregation issues during the CRM, I do not understand the necessity of keeping up the statue of Edward Carmack and hope that it can be removed. We then went to a library in town that has a section dedicated to the civil rights era. It was here we watched a documentary further explaining the sit-ins that occurred in Tennessee and the societal relations of the time. It was an amazing opportunity to observe in person the strategic planning and training needed when implementing non-violent marches that receive violence in return out of racial hate. This made me debate about how the location of Tennessee played a factor in the amount of violence used by white officers and police compared to town in Mississippi. Regardless of the severity, it amazed me how active college students were in the CRM regardless of advice and demand of authorities or parents.