Traveling more than 2,000 miles across five states, students journeyed back in time on the Civil Rights Bus Tour.
The week before classes began, the eight-day trip took students to social justice organizations and key historical sites of the American civil rights movement while developing students’ leadership skills, said Melissa Gruver, community engagement coordinator for TCU’s Center for Community Involvement & Service-Learning.
“I think in many cases [the trip] makes it more real; it’s something that actually happened,” Gruver said. “I think it’s an opportunity to cause ourselves to pause, reflect and listen or lead or think about these stories and these real happenings.”
The bus tour was a new program this year, and Gruver said it has not been determined if the bus tour will be offered in future years. However, students may check diversity.tcu.edu for updates throughout the year.
According to the Center for Community Involvement & Service-Learning website, sponsors for the bus tour included the center, TCU Inclusiveness & Intercultural Services, TCU Leadership Center and the Department of History and Geography. The trip was open to all students, and the cost of the trip — $75 per person for signing up early and $100 for signing up after Dec. 2 — covered meals, lodging and transportation.
Gruver said the group spent about four hours a day on the road and slept in YMCAs and YWCAs each night. The tour included stops like the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the National Civil Rights Museum and the impoverished Mississippi Delta region.
The trip also focused on present-day civil rights movements.
Max Krochmal, assistant professor of history, said that in Atlanta, the group met with Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and in the Mississippi Delta, students learned about the current state of immigration rights in the United States.
Freshman Spanish major Marquis Harris said he was particularly moved by his experience at the home where King was born in Atlanta as well as the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.
“To know that you’re in the same location that MLK was last at is surreal,” he said.
Gruver said the group had the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts of the civil rights movement, which was a key component of the trip.
Krochmal said one such opportunity was a panel discussion with members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the labor union that was at the center of the 1968 Memphis sanitation worker strike. It was this strike that brought King to the Lorraine Motel the day he was killed.
“To be in a place where the movement happened, physically, and also to hear directly from these key participants…it was really a lot of fun,” Krochmal said.
Gruver said during the evenings, students participated in discussions and read assigned materials about leadership and civil rights history.
“When we go back into our day-to-day lives, hopefully we’ll continue to intentionally seek out opportunities to learn about group-centered leadership for social change,” she said.
Krochmal said the trip was not about dwelling on a violence-filled past, but rather understanding history and becoming better leaders for the future.