Office ofAlumni and Constituent Relations

Student Voice - Laurie Reddy '14

Walking in the Shoes of those who Made History

It is one thing to learn about the civil rights movement in class, through text books, and in discussion. It is a whole other experience to travel down south and follow in the footsteps of the great civil rights activists. The latter is what I was able to experience through the Alternative Spring Break program at PLU.

As a freshman I wanted to explore the world, broaden my horizons, and get away from home. The majority of my friends were headed to Cabo San Lucas or Miami for their spring break. I considered joining them, but realized that I would gain nothing from that week. It was then that Angie Hambrick, Director of the PLU Diversity Center, invited me to a meeting concerning the Civil Rights Trip (CRT).

In this meeting I learned that I would be able to actually see the history that has been my passion all of these years, it did not take much to convince me (or my parents) that this was a trip I could not pass up on.

We flew into Atlanta, Georgia and drove to Montgomery, Alabama in the same day. I remember sitting in our van and reading all of the highway signs, and looking at all of the landscapes passing us by. I distinctly remember the plantation-style homes with the large white columns. I was shocked to see that they still existed! Along with those columns, was often a confederate flag flying in the air - I was disgusted and intrigued at the same time.

I will never forget this trip for multiple reasons. I stood where Dr. King stood and delivered a great number of speeches, I stood where four little girls lost their lives at the hands of the KKK. I walked the Edmond-Pettus Bridge where hundreds of innocent protesters were attacked for expressing their desire for equality. As I sit and reminisce about this trip, tears are brought to my eyes as I remember the emotions I felt. I was forced to acknowledge the history of my country, and my race during those ten days; forced to see that America was built on the backs of slaves. I will never, ever forget meeting Dr. King's barber, and talking with him for over an hour. He shared a side of Dr. King that I would never have read in any textbook. I stood on the front porch of Dr. King's house, staring at a black wreath, wishing I was standing next to the great man himself.

This trip was a gateway to my learning at PLU. I was able to narrow my broad history major to my passion of studying the civil rights movement. I am currently writing my capstone paper on Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, and presenting my paper at a national conference. This trip will follow me the rest of my life, I'm sure of it. I am so thankful that this opportunity presented itself to me at PLU.