A small group of students had the opportunity to travel to five cities during the last week of September to gain a firsthand experience of civil rights history.
Sponsored by Cedarville University, the Civil Rights Bus Tour was led by Cedarville’s senior professor of history Murray Murdoch, who recently reached his 50th teaching anniversary at Cedarville, and Greg Dyson, the university’s director of intercultural leadership.
The group began the tour in Wilberforce, Ohio, and then traveled to Atlanta, Ga., Charleston, S.C., Birmingham, Ala., and, finally, Selma, Ala.
Dyson said this year is the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which adds to the value of the bus tour. Prior to the tour, Dyson said he hoped students and faculty on the tour would understand the ethnic and racial concerns of believers, so that as believers they can understand and engage in educated conversation about such topics, as well as civil rights. He said he hoped the tour would bring history to life for the students.
Additionally, Dyson said the bus tour was relevant and important, particularly because of current racial tension in America. He said history often repeats itself, but if Cedarville students, who are the future of America, have a strong understanding of the past, the history that caused so many controversial problems may not repeat itself.
Similarly, Murdoch said an increased awareness from students is very important, especially in current times. He said he hopes students begin to see Cedarville as a campus with all backgrounds and that all students can learn something from one another. He said the value of the annual bus tour should be to realize the importance of diversity around the world and spread the word of God that is faithfully taught at Cedarville.
Prior to the tour, Murdoch said he anticipated visiting Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, S.C., the site of a deadly shooting in June. Murdoch said he looked forward to hearing the congregation’s testimonies and knowing their stories more personally.
William Heinig, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, said he attended the bus tour not only to gain a deeper understanding of the Civil Rights Movement but also to gain a better perspective of the individuals of the Movement. Heinig said he was able to do both on the tour. Heinig said he better understands why it is such a remarkable event to have an African American president, since 50 years ago, African Americans could not even vote.
Heinig said he most enjoyed visiting Charleston’s Mother Emmanuel Church.
“It was amazing to see the power of Jesus in the hearts of the people as they continue to forgive after the tragedy three months prior,” Heinig said.
Laurel Ward, a senior chemistry major, said she went on the bus tour both to broaden her perspective and to gain an appreciation for the progress the nation has made since the Civil Rights period. Ward also said she wanted to continue learning lessons about diversity that God has been teaching her over the past four years at Cedarville so she can reach out to others.
Ward said she definitely gained the perspective and appreciation she had anticipated, and she most appreciated visiting Mother Emmanuel Church.
“I went anticipating to feel as though the members of the church were hesitant around white people, yet I have never been so loved or welcomed in a church before,” Ward said.
Alicia Wright is a freshman journalism major and a reporter for Cedars. She has a passion for French, and she loves coffee, chatting with friends and family, and learning. You can find Alicia at any mall, as shopping is her go-to activity.