Five student-athlete spiders embarked on a fall tour of key civil rights sites across Georgia and Alabama as part of the Athletics Department Civic Engagement and After-School Programming. Beginning in Atlanta, Georgia, and traveling to Tuskegee, Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham, Alabama, the student-athletes will participate in educational tours and guest speakers October 7-11..
Day 1 of the Civil Rights Tour
By Maddy Sesay
To start our day, we started with breakfast at our hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. Once we had fueled up and were ready to go, we hit the road and headed to the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta. Here we visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park Visitor Center to learn about the history of Auburn Avenue, Dr. King’s various accomplishments, and see some original artifacts. One of the artifacts we found of great significance was the mule-drawn wagon used in MLK’s funeral procession. The significance of the mule-drawn wagon was that it was an emblem of King’s final fight for his campaign of the poor.
After spending time at the Visitor Center, we then headed to MLK’s birthplace on Auburn Avenue for a tour. Our guide, Ranger Carr, shared the history of the house, the lives of the children, and the reason for its inheritance. It was fascinating to hear how King’s father influenced his birth, as all children were born at home to avoid supporting separate institutions such as hospitals. The love of integration was reinforced by King’s experience with racism. We learned that as a young boy, King and his brother were told by his friend’s mother (his friend was white) that they couldn’t continue playing together because he and his brother were black. Throughout the house, we were transported back in time hearing about the King children’s chores, favorite things, and childhood memories. Each memory and fact brought a new perspective to what I considered to be MLK and established the foundation of its greatness.
Once we finished our tour of MLK’s birthplace, we explored the King Center. The exterior/interior features of the center paid homage to the King family and their accomplishments during their lifetime. Starting with the interior space dedicated to Dr. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King. Coretta Scott King was a talented musician, scholar, activist, and the first African-American woman to receive the Universal Love award. It was amazing to see what a hero Coretta was in her own right and how together she and MLK had such a huge impact on the world. The outdoor area was stunning, as it was centered around waterfalls cascading into pools. Each footstep was marked with a phrase, but overall the footsteps said, “We will not be satisfied until justice flows like waters and justice like a mighty stream.” By the pool was a grave containing both MLK’s and Coretta’s remains. At the edge of this structure was a wall engraved with King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence. From there we walked about two minutes to the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where King’s grandfather was second pastor and King preached his last sermon. The interior has been preserved to replicate the original model of the church during King’s last sermon, and the audio of his sermon echoed through the church.
Our final stop of the day was in Tuskegee, Alabama, about a two hour drive from Atlanta, Georgia. Here we learned of the importance of Tuskegee as it served as a training base for black pilots, provided educational opportunities, and prioritized maintaining the black dollar in the black community. This message of black people, led by Booker T. Washington, of navigating their way through a segregated society was something I had never learned and wished I had. At the Tuskegee Airman Historic Site, we had the opportunity to learn about the racial inequity preceding the allocation of Blacks into the Air Force. On top of that, we saw the training planes that would have been used, heard the voices of airmen, and enjoyed the doors the Redtails opened for us. All in all an awesome, informative and fun first day and I’m so excited for tomorrow!