Ward-Johnson Leads Winter Term Course on Civil Rights Movement

School of Communications professor Frances Ward-Johnson recently led a group of 28 Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellows in a study of the American Civil Rights Movement during a Winter Term course titled “Disarming Injustice: Nonviolence and the Civil Rights Movement.”  In addition to classroom studies, the fellows also embarked on a week long trip to study the people, places and events that changed the nation.

Under the direction of Ward-Johnson and Rex Waters, associate dean of students, the Fellows traveled from Elon on Jan. 15 to Alabama and Georgia, riding through the Deep South exploring the sights of the Civil Rights Movement.

Before departing for the trip, the Fellows engaged in classroom discussions led by Ward-Johnson on books about the movement including “Eating Dr. King’s Dinner” by Chuck Fager, “Cradle of Freedom” by Fred Gaillard and “The Informant” by Gary May. 

On their tour, the Fellows traveled to Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery, Ala., and then to Atlanta. They visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum, the 16th Street Baptist Church (sight of a bombing that killed four girls) and Kelly Ingram Park (sight of Bull Connor’s violence against children). They traveled to Selma and toured the Slavery and Civil War Museum and the National Voting Rights Museum.

Fellows also walked across the Edmund Pettis Bridge (sight of Bloody Sunday). On their way to Montgomery, they traveled the route used by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and hundreds of protesters during the March on Montgomery for voting rights.

In Montgomery, the students were able to stand where King led a protest for voting rights, which happened to be the same spot Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederacy. They also toured Dexter Avenue Baptist Church’s Parsonage (where King lived with his family; also the house which was bombed to try and kill King), the Rosa Parks Museum and the Civil Rights Memorial, located adjacent to the Southern Poverty Law Center, where speakers elaborated on the injustices and racism that they said continues today.

N.C. A&T State University political science professor Claude Barnes, who marched for civil rights in Greensboro during the 1960s and 1970s, also visited the class and spoke about his experiences as well as today’s new civil rights movement.


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