Civil Rights Movement Tour initiates civil rights history conversation

This year's Civil Rights Movement Tour experienced soul food in Alabama. Photo by Gary Jones.

This year's Civil Rights Movement Tour experienced soul food in Alabama. Photo by Gary Jones.

The annual Civil Rights Movement Tour offers students the opportunity to learn about civil rights history across state lines.

A group of Oklahoma Christian University students traveled to five different states to visit historical sites on the sixth Civil Rights Movement Tour, offered every spring break.

“The purpose of the tour is to give students the opportunity to retrace the steps of the civil rights movement,” Gary Jones, the faculty advisor for the trip, said. “It’s to let them come into contact with various historical things they probably would not get a chance to see otherwise in life. We visit places like the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered. Students get to actually see that space. It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Jones said he hoped this trip allowed students to have a better grasp of history as well as how it relates to modern society.

“I hoped students would get an opportunity to appreciate history and to better understand history,” Jones said. “I believe whole-heartedly real time is a reflection of history. So I think that if students can understand history better, they can understand our current world in a better way.”

Sophomore Caitlyn Ryan participated in this year’s trip and said she especially enjoyed the historical sites the group visited in Montgomery.

“We saw the Rosa Parks Museum, a Civil Rights Museum and Dexter Avenue Baptist Church,” Ryan said. “That day was my favorite because of the experience of it all.”

Ryan said she highly recommends students to consider attending the trip in the future because it offers them a new perspective on historical events.

“I think this trip is important because it gives students an opportunity to see things that they probably won’t see after college,” Ryan said. “It’s important to not only know the history but get a firsthand look at where it all began.”

Joshua Turpin, another attendee of the trip, decided to go on the tour to form a better comprehension of a subculture he was relatively unfamiliar with.

“I realize, as a white male, I have been given privilege, and I desired to challenge that privilege in this way,” Turpin said. “That is, to understand, in whatever way I could, how the black culture in America has been shaped and formed by the history of racial tensions of the past and present. In doing so, I hoped that I could challenge myself and learn how I could better respond to my own implicit racism.”

Turpin said the most difficult aspect about the tour was seeing the destruction in the past caused by Americans.

“It really affected me seeing how far people were willing to go just to keep the status quo,” Turpin said. “We got to see the original bus of the Freedom Riders, it was totally destroyed. I think trips like this one are important because it forces people to think about how their actions can contribute, either positively or negatively, to the racial divide in America.”

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