Honoring the lost

June 8th, 2019


“This column stands in honor of the countless thousands of men, women and children who are undocumented victims of racial terror and lynching.  While we have collected the names, dates, and stories for more than 4,000 racial terror lynchings inscribed in this memorial, the true number of victims is dramatically higher.  Many lynchings were unreported and never documented.  Although their names and stories may never be known, we remember and mourn all whose lives were lost during this tragic era of racial terror.”

Before starting this tour, I picked up the book, “How the United States Racializes Latinos: White Hegemony and Its Consequences” edited by Cobas, Duany and Feagin.  My hope was to learn American history not just from the struggle of African Americans in the Deep South, but to parallel that study with the story of Hispanics that lived in this country during the same era.

After visiting the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and commemorating African Americans that were brutally murdered by lynching, I was curious as to whether or not there were Hispanics lynched.   In chapter 4 of the aforementioned text, Carrigan and Webb document 597 lynchings of citizens of Mexican descent during the same era.   All over the United States there were thousands of men and women injured or killed in order to maintain the unjust social order that existed.  No person of color was exempt.  No white person attempting to help a person of color was exempt, only those who participated or those who remained silent.

I am grateful that we no longer face this particular type of cruelty, however there are unjust practices that are just as inhumane and just as complicit in maintaining the current social order.  As Christians we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Let us not participate in the injury of our neighbor with our silence.


Deeper Understanding

June 8th, 2019

Our stops to The Legacy Museum and The Monument for Peace and Justice in Montgomery broke me to a heart-wrenching sorrow and deep reflection as we looked more in depth at the lynchings and deaths of thousands of innocent Black women, men, and children. At The Legacy Museum, I was astonished by the stories of slaves and their “descriptions” so they could be auctioned off, as well as the tragic stories of families being pulled apart in the name of economic and social growth for the white population. Another powerful way this museum touched me was how it could tell the stories of those who were oppressed and murdered. I think story-telling is a catalyst for inspiration and change, and this museum allowed me to not only listen, but to experience the horrific experiences of some these Black lives in our country’s history. I was directly in front of the faces, voices, and artifacts of people who denied their basic rights as children of God. I heard the stories of those wrongfully convicted and served prison time because of the bias against their skin color and people who had family members lynched and honored them where it happened. I was convicted of how I had contributed to the injustice of others by how silent I have been on our country’s topics of social justice and race.

After this museum, we then took a short drive over to the National Memorial of Peace and Justice. This is a recent addition to the monuments that have been built to honor Black lives, culture, and the Civil Rights Movement. In this sacred place there are steel, casket-sized, blocks that recognize the lives of those who were lynched. Listed on these blocks is simply the name of the county and state where a lynching occurred along with the person’s name(s), and dates it happened. This monument not only immortalizes the names and “unknown” names of the nearly 5,000 people who were killed, but also for the thousands of other undocumented lynchings. As you walk through the seemingly endless rows of blocks, the floor starts to go down as the blocks of names slowly rise over you until you are looking straight up to see them. My heart broke as started to see the endless list of names of those were lynched, hanging, in front of me and then above me. As I was reflecting on my way out, I came across rows of the same blocks that are sitting and waiting to be taken to their home counties. These can stand as a monument to never forget and embrace the evil history in this area while looking to the future toward continuing to reconcile lives in their community. Several hundred blocks still remained, waiting to be taken home. One day I hope this plot of land is empty, but one of the saddest moments on this tour, for me, was to see how many place have still refused to claim the injustice that took place in our country.

Coming into this tour, I had a few moments, figures, and phrases of speech that defined what I thought the Civil Rights Movement, slavery, and the mistreatment of Black lives on American soil was. As result of my experiences on the Tour, I no longer have a brief, bulleted list, but instead a better understanding of America’s greatest shame through the stories of figures who have lived through these moments and a heart that is desperate to stop the injustices still happening today. As a white male, I am the epitome of privilege and power in America and the world. I am looking forward to helping change the hearts of others who also experience this privilege and continuing to learn more. This week I have encountered the naivety of many of the pre-conceived notions and thoughts I had not questioned before this journey. I have constantly been able to question what I was taught, told, and thought about some of these saddest, and most inspirational moments in American and human history. After this sobering experience, I have a new perspective and understanding on who Jesus was, what His love looks like, and what He has called me to do.
“We will remember..with hope because justice is a struggle.”

The roots of the movement

June 7th, 2019

In order to understand the battle for Civil Rights, it is important that we learn about what brought our country to that point in history. Thankfully, several of the museums that we have visited (The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, in particular) gives a timeline that helps us to see how deep the roots of racism go in our country. I thought that I understood slavery, but I wasn’t even seeing the tip of the iceberg!
• Did you know that 12,000,000 people were brought over from Africa and 2,000,000 of them didn’t even make the crossing?
• I was disgusted to learn that when female slaves gave birth to a baby, it was automatically the slave owners property, so they would often rape and impregnate their slaves in order to grow their “workforce”.
• Did you know that while the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves, that they had no money and no property, so many of them had to become sharecroppers that held them at the poverty level and kept them indebted to the rich landowners?
• Or that whites would accuse blacks of petty crimes in order to have them jailed, and would then lawfully enslave them via “convict leasing”?
And there is SO much more! Over the last 6 days, my eyes have truly been opened to the horrific treatment of an entire population of our own citizens. What I do next, I’m not sure, but Now that I have seen it, it can’t be ignored. I want to take what I’ve learned to teach others and to love and serve those who have been disenfranchised by our country’s past (and current) treatment.

Gracious And Caring Spirit

June 6th, 2019

Yesterday we met Carolyn McKinstry, author of “While the World Watched “.   Carolyn was 14 years old when she lost her 4 friends and church mates because of a bomb thrown at her church in Birmingham, AL.  When she talked about her church responsibilities and the events going on that day it sounded like a normal Sunday.  After the bomb exploded she  exited and looked into the bathroom as she walked by to exit the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church but only saw a pile of rubble.  Carolyn didn’t realize her friends were buried there.

I was thinking about the hatred that must have been in the men’s minds and  hearts when they threw that bomb.  I like to think that those little girls came to their minds often at numerous point in their lives, but only God knew their hearts.

Carolyn talked about the Jews and Nazi concentration camps and how many people  suffered and died because of hate.  I could see that Carolyn is a very sweet, kind and caring person and exemplifies a gracious spirit.  What a great example of Christ  for all of us.


“We can’t fix yesterday….

June 6th, 2019

Carolyn Maull McKinstry is a 16th Street Baptist church bombing survivor.  Four of her friends were not that fortunate that day in September of 1963 in Birmingham Alabama. They lost their lives due to the hatred of the Ku Klux Klan who planted dynamite in their church.  20 other people were injured as well in the blast and another girl lost her sight due to being struck in the face with pieces of glass.  Carolyn also told us the story of how her grandmother died in August of 1957 in the basement of a hospital.  That is where they took people of color to be “treated”.  She has seen many examples of how people of color have been treated poorly growing up as a small child.  Clearly Carolyn has plenty of reason to be bitter. However tonight we met with her in an old church in Birmingham and listened to her bring a message of reconciliation.  She told us of how we need to reconcile first with God and then with others. Isn’t it ironic that the title of Reverend Cross’s  sermon that fateful September morning when the church was bombed was to be “A love that forgives”.  Later she told us, “We’ve lost our ability to lament.” She said.  When we look at the happenings in our world, we seem to be content with school shootings, racial injustice, and other problems that are plaguing our society.  She challenged us by saying, “We can’t fix yesterday, but if we WANT something different, we need to DO something different.”

May God show us all how we can do our part to help bring about change.



June 5th, 2019

Today on day 5 of the Civil Rights bus trip we visited the Legacy Museum, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  Then this evening we had the opportunity to hear from Carolyn McKinstry (author of “While the World Watched”) and Lisa McNair, the sister of Denise McNair, one of the girls killed in the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church.

It was a full day, to say the least.

I’m not sure I even have words to describe my emotions, thoughts, and feelings at this point,  but I think one theme of the day can be summed up with this statement by historian Richard Bailey, “There can be no reconciliation without an acknowledgment”.

Today I acknowledged the horrific death of 4 innocent girls, the names of 4000+ racial terror lynchings, the unnamed victims of lynchings, the lynchings that happening in my home state of Pennsylvania, the slave trade that created a system of wealth/privilege for the white people in the south, the domestic slave trade that continued after slavery from Africa ended, the sexual exploitation of slave women and girls, the ways slave families were torn apart, the brutal beatings of slave by their masters, the dehumanizing ways slave owners described their slaves when they put them up for sale, the horrific medical experimentation done on slaves, and the list could go on and on.

I acknowledge these things because they are a part of our history.

I acknowledge them with the hope for reconciliation.

How do you want to be remembered?

June 5th, 2019

The 54 mile march from Selma to Montgomery, AL.  Hundreds and thousands of people marched in March 1965 for the Right to Vote.  I thought everyone had the right to vote?   I didn’t learn that only white people were really allowed to vote in the 1960s – did you?

Yesterday we met Lynda Blackman Lowery of Selma, AL who was the youngest marcher (a young teenager) on the Edmund Pettus bridge.  This was the Road  to Freedom and “we shall overcome” was one of the most striking words I remember hearing. Her stories were amazing- tear gas, hit in the back of her head, grabbed by the back of her shirt, and on and on the physical and emotional abuse she took, but thankfully Lynda is here to tell the real story.  She said everyone was taught how to use nonviolence when confronted by opponents of their protests.  Steady, Loving, Confrontation were the words taught by Martin Luther King Jr.

When President Johnson met with Governor Wallace he told him, “how do you want to be remembered?”  This question is good for all of us to think about, not for political or personal gain, but what is right as a Christian, how did you treat others?  We will all be judged when we die and see Our Lord.  What will He say about your life?  So, how do you want to be remembered?


Greensboro 4

June 5th, 2019

After over 10 hours on a bus and only 3 hours of sleep, I was physically unable to type about my experience on the first day in Greensboro, NC, but lucky for you I am now well rested, well fed, and ready to tell you about the first official stop on the Civil Rights Tour.

We prefaced the stop by watching a few videos which I have discovered is an extremely helpful tool in getting some background and context to the stop ahead. The first and main video was about a group of college students from A&T that made one of the first steps forward against the Jim Crow culture of south. Although the laws were no longer in tact, the mindset was still engrained in the minds of the locals and enforced by the local police.

We were able to go to the old Woolworths store where these four young men initiated a peaceful sit-in at the all white lunch counter. We saw the stools that they sat in day after day as a stand against segregation and stores not serving them lunch simply because of the color of their skin. Although they faced violence and threats, the boys grew their numbers and sparked a movement of sit-ins all over the nation which ultimately forced the stores to serve them. The unfortunate part of this story is that the change was because the protests were hurting the companies financially, not because they changed their minds.

The tour was dedicated to the Greensboro Four, however it also showcased the entire timeline of the civil rights movement. I was fortunate enough to have Minni Jean (one of the Little Rock 9 as I mentioned in my previous post) on the tour with me. At one point, one of our group members whispered to the tour guide who she was and he immediately stared crying, as did the rest of us. He was so in awe to see someone standing in front of him that would be a part of the tour just a few minutes later. She offered so much insight and I feel like I got an added bonus to an already great tour! While there was a ton of information, here is a list of facts that stuck out to me the most:

  1. Restrooms were labeled differently for white vs black females. The term “ladies” was used for white bathrooms and and “women” was used for black. According to Minni, this was to show a class difference between the two and demonstrate that white women were proper and higher class, fancy ladies while black women were just women.
  2. Coke machines were available to both races in segregated areas with separate motors, dispensers and everything. There would be a wall partition between both sides so that one side couldn’t see the other. This allowed the company to charge blacks $.10 when their white counterparts were charged only $.05. It was also common for the repair man to “accidentally” break the cooling side of the blacks dispenser so it would come out warm.
  3. A green book was written as a travel guide for blacks going up and down the east coast. It provided a list of all the services they may need and places that served people of color. It also listed places to avoid. A hotel in Harrisburg made the “safe” list which I was proud to see!
  4. Black men were not allowed to be pilots in the Air Force due to the belief that their heads would explode at high altitudes (RIDICULOUS only begins to cover this for me…)
  5. Colored water fountains were only about 3 ft off the ground as a way to remind blacks where they belonged in society – lower to the ground and bowing to their white oppressors.
  6. All kinds of horrible voting restrictions were placed on blacks including out of this world literacy tests in hopes of preventing blacks from voting. The most ridiculous of tests being the requirement of a black person to look at a bar of soap and tell the tester how many bubbles it would produce. If they got it wrong, there were deemed unable to vote. WHAT A JOKE!

As I type the work joke above I understand that none of these things were a joke to black people in that time. And that time was just a few years ago! My parents were alive for this!!!! Although they seem like such minute details of daily life, I think they display something so deeply engrained in peoples mind. I knew separate but equal wasn’t really that, but this is taking it to a whole new level for me.

There was a second portion of the tour called the wall of shame. We were told that if we were sensitive we should not attend as it shows things that aren’t in textbooks. For me this was difficult because on one hand, I am sensitive – on the other, I absolutely want to know what is not being taught! I decided to go in because of this curiosity and I ended up being fine. It was mainly images of lynchings, burnings, and beatings of blacks during the struggle since slavery. It was hard to look at but important to see how evil really had taken over the minds of these people. One photo showed a black man who was wrongly accused of raping a white woman. He was beaten, lit on fire, chopped up, and dragged behind a car on display for the whole town to see. People bought tickets for themselves and their children and they treated it like a county fair. We also saw a klan uniform that a daughter had found when cleaning out her parents house after their death. It was splattered with blood and one can only imagine what that white uniform was responsible for.

Needless to say this day shed only a small light on what’s to come on the rest of this trip. I must say I have felt this uncomfortable sense of guilt for what white people have done and I know it’s only going to get worse. The only form of solace I have gotten is seeing the number of whites who were killed and went to jail fighting for black freedom. I hope that Minni and other people who experienced the hate then and still today (yes it is still happening today and we need to do something about it) can understand that there are white people who care about and love them as equal human beings.

I think another issue I’m going to struggle with is the idea that Christianity was behind the hate. I know this is nothing new and I know that it still exists, but I don’t think I can ever comprehend how a klansman can bomb a black family’s house and pray to God right after. How they can spew hateful words, spit on and beat another human and hold a bible in their hands while doing it. How a politician who claims that Jesus is part of their campaign can enforce laws that promote hate and poverty to human beings. The irony is that the civil rights movement for blacks was fueled by their faith in God. They prepared in churches, sung gospel songs, and preached peace and love as Jesus did. How can people not see who is truly being Christlike in this situation?!?

Basically I think I’ve just learned that people are more crazy than I realized and that America can not pretend like we are this squeaky clean, land of the free, home of the brave. We are not the promised land for some and we are not without fault in history and present day.



Status quo

June 5th, 2019

We have had the distinct honor to hear first-hand accounts of the civil rights protests. Hearing their stories in the documentaries we’re watching while traveling, and then hearing their own, personal accounts reminds me of the importance of questioning WHO gets to craft the history that endures. What strikes me is that these were ordinary people, standing up to do extraordinary things. They were young: Emmett Till was 14 when he was murdered. Linda Lowery was the youngest participant on the march from Selma to Montgomery – she was 14 when she started the 50 mile march and turned 15 along the way. Martin Luther King Jr. was 26 during the Montgomery bus boycott. These young people did not accept the concept “that’s just the way it is.” They stood in front of those with power, and dared to declare that the world was not just. That status quo was not right. My prayer as we continue the trip is that God continues to open our hearts to hear the hard and painful truth about our nation’s past, and that those seeds will fall on fertile ground so that we have the strength of conviction to stand up for other when the status quo works against any group of people. May our eyes be open to the ways in which other groups experience the world.