Brendan O’Shaughnessy | May 4, 2020
Forty-four Notre Dame student, faculty and staff members took a bus journey to visit sites of the civil rights movement across the southern U.S.
Goose pimples broke out on a student’s skin in the pitch-black cellar of a Tennessee stop on the Underground Railroad. A visceral sadness seeped into a faculty member in the Memphis hotel room where Martin Luther King was shot on the balcony. The physical presence of the souls of black leaders overwhelmed the group’s bus driver in a Selma church.
These are sacred places, where people commune with those who paid the price for freedom.
One thing that has become clear during the time of corona is the difference between virtual learning from books and screens versus the raw, bone-deep feelings of knowledge that can only come through first-hand experience.
Thirty-one Notre Dame students and 13 faculty, staff and leadership fellows plunged into the latter on a bus journey of the history of the civil rights movement across the southern U.S. just before the pandemic shut off campus life and travel in mid-March.
The Center for Social Concerns offered the Act Justly seminar, a one-credit course culminating in a spring break that was no trip to the beach. Students spent the previous month hearing speakers and discussing seminal readings by civil rights leaders. Stops in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama covered a cross section from large state museums to hidden roadside memorials and from veterans of the cause to today’s community leaders.
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