UW-Whitewater students retrace steps, mark Civil Rights movement
WHITEWATER Regardless of how many books, films or Internet sources they may have studied before or since, nothing comes close to the profound impact of having been there.
Forty-nine students and faculty from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater embarked on a trip of a lifetime during spring break 2011, eventually sitting on a bus used during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, visiting Martin Luther King Jr.’s house and church and peering out the bathroom window where convicted murderer James Earl Ray allegedly fired the shot that killed King.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
Those individual and collective memories and experiences led to the creation of the Civil Rights Remembered march/walk, which is scheduled on campus March 7 (see graphic on Page 13).
Organizers will honor King and thousands of others who fought against inequality and injustice during the 1950s and ’60s, and they will commemorate that legacy on one of the most prominent dates during that struggle.
March 7, 1965, in Selma, Ala., became known as Bloody Sunday, a day that featured 600 peaceful marchers, including King, protesting the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson -- who was killed in late February at a voters’ rights demonstration. As they approached the bottom of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, state troopers ordered them to retreat in three minutes. But within 90 seconds, police attacked the marchers with dogs, billy clubs and tear gas.
Turnaround Tuesday took place March 9, as 1,500 people of all backgrounds repeated the march and were ordered to retreat. On March 21, about 3,500 people started their march to Montgomery, this time protected by the Alabama National Guard. They arrived in Montgomery four days later, with an estimated 25,000 protesters watching them deliver a petition to Gov. George Wallace.
Wesley Staedt is the UW-Whitewater student who, after walking where King walked, took the next step, proposing and organizing the remembrance event.