Baylor Students Retrace Steps of Legend Through Civil Rights Tour

April 5, 2018

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WACO, Texas (April 5, 2018) — Baylor University Missions, along with funding from several campus offices and departments, recently sponsored a Civil Rights Tour over spring break for students to visit significant landmarks in the Civil Rights Movement. The tour grew out of a course, “The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” taught by James SoRelle, Ph.D., professor of history and undergraduate program director. Throughout the spring semester, students have heard lectures and discussed readings related to a historical analysis of the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the seminal figures in the struggle for African-American freedom and equality in the United States. In addition, he became known internationally as a proponent of human rights and a practitioner of nonviolent direct action to secure those rights,” SoRelle said. “Understanding Dr. King’s life and legacy provides a window for our students to observe the impact of social justice campaigns not only for African Americans but for all of us as citizens of the world.”
The tour brought to life what students learned in the classroom by inviting them to ride a bus that stopped in Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma, Alabama; Memphis, Tennessee; and Little Rock, Arkansas. SoRelle said the bus is a significant symbol in the history of civil rights.

“To board a bus and travel to historic civil rights sites throughout the American South is to symbolically retrace the steps of those steadfast Americans who challenged the obdurate system of Jim Crow over half a century ago,” SoRelle said.

While stopping in these cities, the students had the opportunity to see the motel room in Memphis, where King was staying when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968; sit in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, where four young girls died in a dynamite blast at the hands of Ku Klux Klan terrorists; and walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on the 53rd anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when law enforcement officers attacked marchers with tear gas and billy clubs.

“The most impactful thing for me in the academic sense was that I saw history from people who lived it,” said Midland senior Molly Meeker. “Seeing history and touching history is a more engaging way of learning that taught me at a different level about events that changed the course of American history and the lives of everyone in the country.”

This year, eight students went on the trip. The students will meet one more time in class to share observations and insights on what they learned from King’s legacy and how they can continue it through their own advocacy.

“While the things I saw and felt on the trip hurt, I also found a road toward my own internal reconciliation from the faith and hope I saw in people who led the battle for civil rights,” Meeker said. “Their strength and courage electrified my own desire to shoulder the current fight for civil rights and march onward.”

This year’s tour was especially impactful since this year marks the 50-year anniversary of King’s assassination. Baylor held a commemoration ceremony on April 4 in Paul W. Powell Chapel of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary in honor of this anniversary. Student Body President Amye Dickerson, a senior Business Fellow major from Katy, shared about her experience on the trip.

“This trip was one of the most transformative experiences during my time at Baylor. I have studied Dr. King’s life and impact in several of my courses, but this trip allowed our class to observe that history firsthand,” Dickerson said. “Thankfully, there has been much change that has taken place since Dr. King inspired thousands through his commitment to peaceful nonviolent resistance, but there is still more change needed for all to truly experience equality. Although his life may have ended too soon, his legacy and his leadership lives on.”

For more information about the course and Civil Rights Tour, visit the Baylor Missions website. Anyone who is interested in the class or tour can contact Ramona Curtis, director for community engagement and initiatives, at or SoRelle at

by Joy Moton, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.