Day 9 – Persistence

June 26th, 2021

Today, on our final day of the bus tour, we stopped at Clearview Golf Club in Canton, Ohio. Started by a black man named Bill Powell in 1948, Clearview Golf Club has become a nationally recognized golf course and is known for its legacy of “Golf for Everyone,” no matter the race. Mr. Powell, who had developed an interest in golf at an early age, was consistently prohibited from accessing many golf courses because of his skin color. So, he decided to build his own golf course where skin color didn’t matter. Mr. Powell has since passed, but we met with his daughter, Dr. Renee Powell, who is one of the most distinguished black female professional golfers. In 1967, she became the first African American woman to compete on the LPGA Tour. In 1973, she won the Kelly Springfield Open in Australia. Now, Renee is the LPGA/PGA Head Golf Professional at Clearview where she’s keeping her father’s legacy of “Golf for Everyone” alive.

One theme that stuck out to me as we heard the history of Clearview Golf Club was persistence. Mr. Powell could have easily given up on golf when no courses would admit him, but he persisted. He could have accepted that his golf course was going to be subpar because it was constructed on dilapidated farmland, but he proceeded to create a beautiful golf course that exceeded the expectations of his white counterparts. Renee, too, learned to persist at an early age, as golf is not nearly as popular among females, let alone black females. The theme of persistence has been evident throughout this entire bus tour. Over and over, we’ve heard stories of black Americans who took non-violent stands against hypocritical societal norms and were continuously taunted, beaten, burned, thrown in jail, and killed for their simple cry for true equality. Though they had thousands of reasons to give up, they persisted for the one reason that mattered the most.

Jane Mylin

Day 8 – Twenty-one

June 26th, 2021

Today we listened to Mr. Rip Patton speak. Mr. Patton was born in Nashville in 1940 and attended Tennessee State University beginning in 1960. As a student, he joined the Nashville branch of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and participated in sit-ins, stand-ins, and boycotts. He also joined the Freedom Riders in 1961. It truly saddens me to think about everything that Freedom Riders went through. Tires were slashed, bombs were thrown in buses, the riders were badly beaten with metal pipes, clubs, and baseball bats – and Bull Connor was in no rush to stop the mobs (assuring them that it would be at least fifteen minutes until police forces arrived). Mr. Patton was 21 years old when he joined the Freedom Riders. I am 21, and I can’t imagine willingly putting my life at risk like that. I suppose my mindset would be different if I experienced the oppression that Mr. Patton and his fellow black Americans did in the Deep South. I am thankful that he and his comrades had the courage to ride those buses and pave the way for integration.

Jane Mylin

Day 7 – As If He Knew

June 26th, 2021

This morning, we visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. The museum is located on the site of the former Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April 1968. Towards the end of the museum gallery, we had the opportunity to walk by the room in which Dr. King was staying, with the balcony on which he was assassinated in full view. This was a very sobering experience. Recordings played of Dr. King’s final speech the day before, now coined his “mountaintop” speech. Throughout the speech, he makes several, seemingly-divinely inspired remarks that shockingly foreshadow his approaching assassination:

“Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy.’”

“And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Wow. I am sure that Dr. King would have done much more to foster racial equality had he remained alive that April day, but I sense from his speech that he knew his time was coming. How thankful I am that he did survive that long (especially after a stabbing several years earlier that almost killed him) and that he served as a light of Jesus as he led African Americans in this struggle for freedom.

Jane Mylin

Day 6 – Disappearing Lines

June 26th, 2021

This afternoon we arrived in Memphis. As a huge music lover, I have been especially looking forward to visiting Memphis. The first thing we did was visit the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. One of the things that stood out to me as we walked through the gallery was the absence of racial divisions. Several groups that recorded at Stax consisted of both white and black musicians. They didn’t care about the color of their skin – they simply enjoyed making music together! One of the things I love about music is how it brings people together. It fosters a connection that simple words can’t always provide. Unfortunately, as soon as these musicians walked out the door of the recording studio, those racial walls returned. I am thankful that these musicians had a refuge in challenging times, and I’m sad that Stax had to close its doors in 1975. I’m glad that Stax could pave the way for black musicians in a white-dominated music industry.

Jane Mylin

Final Reflections

June 23rd, 2021

We’ve been home for a few days, and I continue to think about the trip. What will I take with me?

First, it’s time I really learn this history. During the last couple days on the bus, I started my own civil rights timeline, highlighting especially the places we visited and the people we met. I’m just as capable of learning this as organic chemistry! I just have never prioritized it.

Second, over and over I saw behaviors, actions, beliefs and words from this era that I have personally witnessed again in the last year. It happened again in the last couple days with the stymied voting rights act in the senate and some of the arguments against it. I need to be a constant voice for justice during these times.

Third, I was impressed with the organization and discipline of the movement. I lament that the protests in the past year were not as focused, and I’m afraid they will not accomplish as much as we would hope.

I’m thinking that I might attend the online church services of each of the churches we visited throughout the rest of the summer. Because of COVID, we were unable to go into most of them. I know I would be blessed by worshipping with the contemporary congregations of these historic peace and justice churches.

Our last speaker was asked what his most memorable, meaningful experience was with music, and the movement. He had a fabulous bass voice, by the way! He recalled a very recent time when in a Freedom Riders Museum, with a group, they had gotten in a circle to sing “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.” Instead of the word “nobody,” everyone had to say out loud an issue that they weren’t gonna let turn them around. Dr. Patton was particularly moved when others in the museum, not even in their tour, joined in with this very personal singing of the freedom song. This was so good. I need to remember to sing this song whenever it seems appropriate in my life. My students might even think that “organic chemistry” belongs in such a song!

Roseann Sachs

Day 9 – So where do we go from here?

June 21st, 2021

On this final leg of our bus tour, I’ve been considering all the ways I’ll be processing this trip over the next days, weeks, months. I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity. The memories I made from meeting civil rights heroes are ones I will carry with me for the rest of my life. As a historian, I am acutely aware of how rare of an opportunity this trip was, particularly as so many veterans of the Civil Rights era are no longer with us. Personally, I will continue to lament the sins of this country and continue to unpack my white privilege and consider ways to fight for human rights.

The beauty and heartbreak of this tour is that hatred, racism, slavery, and lynching all still exist in this country and in our world. Many of them now have new iterations via racial profiling, mass incarceration, our punitive police state, etc. Racism has existed in the current U.S. since Europeans arrived on these indigenous lands and it continues to be passed down for generations in hearts and systems and institutions.

So where do we go from here?

This is my preliminary processing on the last day: I will educate myself and others and get in “good trouble” that John Lewis always encouraged. As a white woman, this will be a lifelong process. I’ll continue teaching my students about the history of this movement and the fight for human rights. One thing I’ve gleaned from this trip is additional details and nuances to add to my lectures. I hope these give students even more of a visceral sense of the past and how it fits into the larger history of racism.

If you’re thinking about what you’ve read on this blog and are looking for a place to start, I recommend the following movies and documentaries (some of which we watched on this trip):

The Hate U Give
-Son of the South

Eyes on the Prize (PBS)
Mighty Times: The Children’s March

May we all summon the courage and resilience of the Civil Rights activists as we continue to fight for human rights for all.

Sarah P. Myers

Signing with Dr. Rip Patton

June 20th, 2021

Today was an insightful and surreal day. We were able to sit with Dr. Rip Patton. We didn’t just sit with him, we sat with him around a lunch counter. On this lunch counter was a timeline with pictures, significant moments in the civil rights movement, and engravings of the rules for the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins. Dr. Patton, and others exhibited great discipline when risking their health in the effort to desegregate the lunch counters. We read these rules aloud, and for but a moment, I felt what it could have been like to be a person in the basement of Clark Memorial United Methodist Church learning the discipline of Non-violence from Rev. James Lawson in preparation for civil rights demonstrations.

Reading those rules aloud was a powerful experience, but what I found to be even more moving was having the opportunity to sing Freedom songs with Dr. Patton. Here was a man that risked his life so that me, and generations of people who would come after me, would come closer to experiencing the freedom that America promises all of it’s citizens; and I was able to sing a song like “We shall overcome” with him! I could feel the spirit, encouragment, and strength that these songs provided; what a dreamlike experience.

I left this day, like many other days, feeling grateful to God that he empowered people to stand up for what was right, and help bring about change in this land that previous generations thought to be only a dream, or nightmare, depending on the side of right one was on.

Day 9: Full and Overflowing

June 20th, 2021

We had the honor of spending time with a Nashville Freedom Rider, Rip Patton.  His presentation was very interactive, asking us what we had learned from the trip so far.  He brilliantly connected all the dots and showed how individuals from Nashville were connected and instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. He saw the hand of God moving people to Nashville as students to direct this movement that successfully led to the integration of all the businesses in downtown Nashville in just 3 months.  When asked the following questions a number of years ago, he responded with Scripture verses:

Why did you join? Romans 12:1-2

Why did you go? Isaiah 6:8

Were you afraid? Psalm 23

As we begin our last day of the trip, my heart and mind is full and overflowing.  Grateful for the opportunity to experience a slice of history that I knew too little of, grateful for Todd, Crystal and Bryce who kept things running smoothly behind the scenes, grateful for a wonderful bus driver, Tom, who can make turns on narrow city streets seem easy, grateful for getting to know others on the bus and experiencing and processing things together, grateful for the opportunity to meet authors and first-hand witnesses like Anthony Grooms, Charles Person,  Rutha Harris, Carolyn McKinstry, Lisa McNair, and Rip Patton telling their stories and painting a picture of how all the pieces of the movement were connected. I will never forget this trip and I am being changed by it. I look forward to quiet moments in the days and weeks to come to reflect and process what I heard and saw on this trip and am asking God to show me what piece of the puzzle of justice He wants me to fill.


A Poem

June 20th, 2021

The sun doesn’t shine.
Not on us
Not on my skin
That’s not my heartbeat I hear
I heard

Your story, though.
Can it be mine?
Yours truly,
My sun doesn’t shine

A thunderstorm, I presume. I’m not blinking
I’m thinking I can’t couldn’t wasn’t
Yeah, I’m young…It’s dim something flickered; flicker

Rushing stream or rainy sky. What sound?
Music either way
Won’t turn me around

That’s not your shoe.
The roads are parched; But the church sang
But no sun                        when you were lost
A cry.

And your star, your north star.
It doesn’t shine
It sparkles; it twinkles
Where was I. Where were you.

There are many more stars in the night sky.


Jon Sison

Day 8: Nashville Highways

June 20th, 2021

Today we were in Nashville before beginning our trek home through the state of Kentucky into Ohio. In Nashville, we got to enter into the Civil Rights Room in the Nashville Public Library and speak with Mr. Rip Patton, one of the original 27 Freedom Riders. Mr. Patton spoke of his time on the Freedom Rides and of his fellow freedom riders like John Lewis, as well as the awful conditions of Parchman State Penitentiary that the Freedom Riders were sent to in order to have their spirits broken. He spoke with a certainty and sincerity, and a calming voice that carried much wisdom. He remembered in specific detail that he was fourth to get off the bus when they were arrested and had us sing with him songs that they sang when in Parchman.

Mr. Patton then gave us a bus tour of Nashville, specifically the area around Tennessee State University and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) leadership locations. 14 of the original Freedom Riders were from Tennessee State University (formerly Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State College), including Mr. Patton, and all 14 were expelled.  CORE was the group which organized the Freedom Riders, and thus the group which Mr. Patton served with.

What was most remarkable to me about the tour was how much the city of Nashville has changed over the years. I have always grown up with the interstate highway system, but we passed through community after community where Mr. Patton identified the highways as having torn down homes or causing business to fail as they eliminated patrons’ homes. I had always heard how the interstate highway system disproportionately affected communities of color, but to see and hear how in one man’s lifetime a city has been remolded by infrastructure was truly staggering.

I never really thought of how there was a time that there simply weren’t such highways even though I conceptually knew this to be true. Mr. Patton, a jazz musician for a time, pointed out a once vibrant club that he played in before the interstate highway split the residential community in half and caused the club to shut down. Old wooden panels covered the windows, and the parking lot was riddled with potholes.

As there is discussion of a badly needed new infrastructure plan, I pray that we be good stewards of the land God gave us dominion of and that we develop it for the betterment of all people. I pray that we continue to aid one another and that those who design such necessary systems do so in consideration of all people. And I pray that we may begin to rectify those who have been harmed by our nation’s failures.

Matt Jenkins