The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Moving memories

In four months, Perkins graduate school senior Michael Waters planted and helped mature an idea into a spring course and a seven-day pilgrimage with the help of the university’s Chaplin’s office, history department and Student Senate.

“[The turnout] was beyond our wildest dreams,” Waters said. “We did the best we could in planning and God did the rest.”


In light of the 40th anniversary of Civil Rights Movement, Waters wanted to create a program that informed, educated and spoke to students about this time in U.S. history.

“It’s not about black history, it’s about our history,” Waters said.

The itinerary included stops at many sites, namely the Metgar Evers Library/Statue in Jackson, Miss.; the Brown Chapel AME Church and Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala; Martin Luther King’s home that was bombed in Montgomery, Ala.; 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.; and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn.

On March 11, approximately 30 students, faculty, staff and spouses piled into a bus, traveling to six southern cities — all heavily involved in the movement. Due to the seven-day time constraint, the pilgrimage focused on two events: Freedom Summer and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965.

The theme of the event appealed not only to students taking the course for credit, but to others looking for a spring break outside the box.

And for first-year Alabama native Drew Washington, this trip was it.

Experience Evokes Emotions

Throughout his youth, Washington often heard his father, Harold, describe life as a young man during the 1960s. One story in particular stuck with him throughout the trip.

“Once, a white police officer held a gun to his head and said ‘Nigger, don’t move or I will blow your fucking head off,’” merely because the color of his skin, Washington said. And it was stories like Harold’s that were heard from guest speakers throughout the trip.

“It’s unbelievable to think all of this happened in our country and not long ago,” Waters said.

Spanish professor Jackie Wald, who attended the trip with husband, Michael, was 11 at the time of the movement and never forgotten what happened on Sunday, Sept. 18, 1963 in Birmingham, Ala. Living in Iowa at the time, Wald heard on the news that the 16th Street Church had been bombed, killing four young girls inside. One of those little girls was Denise McNair, who has haunted Wald since that day.

“I identified with her because it could have been me or anyone of us,” Wald said. “We have come along way since I was young, but there’s still a distance to go.”

Knowing that emotions were going to be stirred, Waters planned personal reflection time for members of the group to have individual time to absorb the events of the day.

Linden said reflection moments were important.

“Sometimes you have to decompress because it’s sad, but good to know,” Linden said.

The students of the group varied in age and education. Although the majority are undergraduates, there were a few MBA and Ph.D. students, whom participated.

Linden, who has helped establish contacts and launch study abroad programs in England and Spain, said the immense planning and effort put into the trip paid off.

Organizing an Eye-Opening Trip

Early last fall, assistant Chaplin Waters pitched his idea to the department.

Chaplin William Finnin, who has known Waters for seven years, immediately recognized the potential of Waters’ idea and began brainstorming. After days of discussion, the department decided upon two related ideas, which would directly appeal to the campus community: a pilgrimage and a course created around the history.

Finnin then contacted Ethnics professor Ken Hamilton, who liked the idea and asked history professor Dr. Glenn Linden if he was interested in the program. He accepted and the two collaborated, creating a course syllabus, which required some readings prior to the trip, but placed the bulk of the work after.

“Good learning is not in lectures, but going through the material together,” Linden said.

Finnin, an avid fundraiser, generated funds to cover approximately $19,000 for the project. This figure included faculty stipend, one history course, lodging, museum fees and tour guides. Finnin estimated total costs at $22,000, which included participants’ personal expenses, such as food and souvenirs. Student Senate funded $4,600 for transportation.

“The people in our office did an incredible job,” Finnin said. “We put together a project that funded itself.”

“This is the best trip I have had in 37 years,” Linden said.

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