Blog  American South: Learning about the Past, Changing Today

American South: Learning about the Past, Changing Today

By Talia Spillerman, Mitzvah Corps American South 2018 Participant

This past week, the Mitzvah Corps American South group has been to many sites where volunteers and professionals have graciously taught us about the Civil Rights Movement. We met a volunteer who had retired twice from giving tours, yet she still is explaining the life of Medgar Evers. At The Pink House, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, we met Miss Betty, who drove back to work, even though she had already been home, because she did not want us to miss an opportunity to learn. At the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, a man voluntarily started telling us about the Freedom Riders, civil rights activists who rode segregated buses in an attempt to test the enforcement of new national desegregation laws throughout the South. He told us that when he was 13 years old, he went to see a Freedom Rider and his friend pushed him into the “white” section of a bus station. He then got arrested and put on death row for five and a half days before the governor pardoned him. Now, at seventy years old, he still retells his story to educate the rest of the world on what life was like during the Civil Rights Movement.

Seeing all these volunteers and professionals spending their time educating others inspires me to continue learning more about the Civil Rights Movement and systemic racism throughout America. It is one thing to read about an event in history, but hearing directly from experts while seeing where an event took place puts the event or time period in perspective. Time is one of the most valuable currencies, and seeing so many people spending their time educating others shows me that it is extremely important to continue to learn and share their stories.