May 20, 2022
A group of East Texas Baptist University students, faculty, and staff recently spent four days in Alabama learning the history and significance of the Civil Rights Movement. The group visited Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma, where they had the opportunity to tour significant sites such as the National Peace and Justice Center, National Voting Rights Museum, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
“Through the Civil Rights Tour, we sought to engage participants in an exploration of this important movement in American History and inform them not only of what happened but what led up to and followed this time period,” ETBU Director of the Great Commission Program and Director of Global Education Lisa Seeley said. “This trip opened the eyes and hearts of the participants to the truth of what transpired during this volatile time leaving many students forever changed and wondering why they never heard about this in school. We also learned how inequities still exist today, especially in our criminal justice system. What happened during the Civil Rights Movement not only changed the face of America but spread beyond our shores to inspire people around the world to fight for change also. The students, faculty, and staff on the trip came home with a new understanding of the struggles that existed and, in many ways, still exist today for many Americans.”
In addition to several museums, the group also toured other historical sites such as 16th Street Baptist Church and Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, and Tabernacle Baptist Church in Selma, where the group served alongside church staff.
“My favorite part of the trip was reading about my culture and how strong people were in a very rough time,” graduate student Joshua Winans said. “As Christian leaders, it is our job to honor God in everything that we do. I believe I can apply what I learned from this trip by leading by example. It is our job to educate ourselves and everyone in our present community on this important history. Taking advantage of opportunities like this means that you are better prepared for real-life situations dealing with discrimination and racism and being able to stand up to social injustice and acts of unjust behavior. This trip will make you appreciate the power of prayer and the people you are praying for.”
While most students learn bits and pieces about the Civil Rights Movement in history class, attendees of the trip were able to deepen that knowledge through this immersive experience, and many expressed a newfound sense of understanding regarding race and equality in the United States.
“I came into this trip thinking I knew a fair amount about the Civil Rights Movement,” sophomore Christian ministry major Avery Abshier said. “Each day, I became more aware of my shallow understanding. I shifted from sympathy to deep empathy by the end of the trip. This trip provides proximity to history and modern realities that have exposed voids in my knowledge and lifestyle. As a Christian, I am called to love my neighbor. I was able to hear stories from people who have been hurt by the realities of our nation and fought for equality personally. Through this, I learned that loving people well looks like creating space to listen and do life with them. Understanding people and their needs provides a more personal and holistic healing for deep wounds that societal Band-Aids have proven insufficient. Overall, this Civil Rights Tour is an amazing opportunity for students to learn and grow in order to return and impact realities with historical understanding and spiritual discipline.”