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BC Alumni, Students, Re-enact Civil Rights March in Alabama

On March 11-12, a group of forty five Berea College students, faculty, staff and alumni visited key sites during the Civil Rights Movement in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.

Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

Visiting the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of what became known as "Bloody Sunday," several of the group were brought to tears while standing at the place where many of the original marchers were attacked with nightsticks and tear gas.

Forty years ago, the Selma to Montgomery March was one of the most important events of the Civil Rights Movement. Blacks and whites from throughout the United States, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., marched to call for voting rights for all Americans. Despite intimidation along the way, a group from Berea joining more than 25,000 other supporters to march from Selma to Montgomery and build national support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Berea’s involvement in the 1965 march and events leading up to it, has recently been researched by Dr. Dwayne Mack, assistant professor of history at Berea, and co-coordinator of the trip. Mack pieced together the full story from archival records.

In 1964, a number of Berea students, faculty and staff marched on the state capitol in Frankfort, along with thousands of others in the state, lobbying the Kentucky legislature to pass civil rights legislation. The college supported the event by canceling classes and providing demonstrators transportation to the march.

A year later, the attention of Berea activists and of people around the nation were focused on Alabama, where severe voter registration restrictions for blacks had prompted action by blacks and violent reaction from some white Alabamans, including local authorities. A small group of Bereans took part in the march led by Martin Luther King Jr. on March 9, 1965 that had to turn back before arriving at Montgomery and during which a white minister from Boston was killed. When King organized another four-day march for March 21 - 24, a bus and four cars carrying fifty eight Berea College students and faculty members participated in the final and most important leg of the march.

For the 1965 March, Berea’s delegation was the largest of all Kentucky colleges and universities. Four of those original marchers, who were Berea students in 1965, will be among those taking part in the reenactment, including Ann Beard Grundy of Lexington. In addition to Grundy, other original marchers who are expected to join Berea’s delegation to Selma this weekend, include George Giffin, class of 1965 who now lives in Dearborn, Mich.; Jane Matney Powell, ’65, of Miamisburg, Ohio; Sarah Wade Brown, ’65, now of Portland Oregon, and Evelyn Lloyd White, ’66, of Columbia, Md.

During the trip, Berea was honored with the Citizen Appreciation Award by the event organizers.

For additional information contact event coordinator Dr. Meta Mendel-Reyes, at (859) 985-3940.

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