University of St. Thomas Magazine Fall/Winter 2020

L ast January, in a pre-pandemic world, a small contingent of St. Thomas faculty, staff and students headed south for an immersive journey into the roots of the civil rights movement on the We March for Justice study tour.

Little did they realize the lessons they would learn on this trip would take on a whole new meaning after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers created a wave of protests across the country. It was a stark reminder that the fight for racial justice is far from over. For years, Cynthia Fraction, director of the Excel! Research Scholars Program, along with College of Arts and Sciences professors DavidWilliard (History) and Todd Lawrence (English), have introduced St. Thomas students to a number of influential standard bearers of the civil rights struggle. Not only do students learn about the history of the movement firsthand on the study trip, they’re also inspired to

The group walks across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where "Bloody Sunday" unfolded in 1965, when police attacked peaceful civil rights demonstrators.

The group traveled to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, at each stop meeting with civil rights foot soldiers, who shared firsthand accounts of their struggle against racial oppression. Students toured Canton, Mississippi, with Dr. Flonzie Brown Wright as their guide. As a young mother in the 1960s, she helped register thousands of voters even though she received death threats. Wright went on to become a county election commissioner and the first African American woman to win elected office in Mississippi post-Reconstruction Era. At Tougaloo College, Hollis Watkins, one of the original members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, shared freedom songs with the group and recounted his experience being

Dr. Flonzie Brown Wright, middle, gives students a tour of the town square in Canton, Mississippi.

be persistent as they embark on their own journey advocating for change.

Facing page: Student Tiaryn Daniels walks across a bridge at Black Bayou in Glendora, Mississippi, the area where Emmett Till's murder unfolded in 1955.

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