Educators Reflect on Civil Rights Movement Trip

Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, WY), November 7, 2016 | Go to article overview

Educators Reflect on Civil Rights Movement Trip


Lest we forget: The dogs scare them. Fangs are bared. Their barking is deafening. The dogs will tear them to shreds if the police let them loose. But the marchers move on. The cause of freedom overcomes the acid taste of fear. The righteousness of their cause buoys them. Their unshakeable faith sustains them. It is the time of the civil rights movement. Perhaps it is the time in which children were killed in their church by the concussion and flames of a firebomb. Here Comes the Sun Few organizations have done as much to further our ongoing public education enterprise in Wyoming as the Ellbogen Foundation. Their emphasis on the classroom and learning is consequential.

Recently the Ellbogen Foundation helped fund a trip to Birmingham, Alabama, to the Civil Rights Institute for 30 Wyoming teachers to study the civil rights movement.

The experience was one of emotional and spiritual uplift for many of these educators. That the civil rights movement and the stories of those who lived it still have that power after all these years is a testament to its moral strength, and to the courage of those who brought profound change to this country.

Birmingham was the scene of violent reaction from those who sought to stop the civil rights movement. Churches were bombed. People were beaten for their insistence that the freedoms outlined in the Constitution were meant for everyone.

Nowadays, Birmingham has a Civil Rights District, which includes the 16th Street Baptist Church, scene of the bombing murders of four children. We should let the educators tell this story: Matt Strannigan, former principal at Cheyenne's Central High: "In 2011, a member of the congregation (at Bethel Church) assumed I was a teacher and told me in a quiet, but steady voice, 'Thanks for telling our story,' and it was emotional and life-changing for me." Mr. Strannigan thinks the educators' trips to Birmingham will result in Wyoming students getting a "true picture of the civil rights movement, and they will, hopefully, become more compassionate citizens." Mitch Davis teaches at New Frontier High School, an alternative high school in Kemmerer: "I've been able to share with my kids the ways that the civil rights activists took charge of their lives. ? My students have been inspired by the stories of the Children's March and the Freedom Riders. …

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