Civil Rights Class Meets Movement Icons

Civil Rights Class Meets Movement Icons
Posted on 01/20/2023
Civil Rights Class Meets Movement IconsSisters of the Civil Rights Movement Speak at Messiah University
Nyla Anderson
Feature Editor
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Lynda Blackmon Lowery (left) and Joanne Bland (right) speaking to students from CV and the Civil Rights Rhetoric class at Messiah University.

For Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Messiah University invited Civil Rights activists and sisters Lynda Blackmon Lowery and Joanne Bland to speak during Chapel on Tuesday before classes started. The Literature and History of the Black Civil Rights Movement class from CV and groups from other schools in PA were invited for the private Q and A afterward, along with students from Messiah’s Civil Rights Rhetoric class led by Dr. Todd Allen.

Lynda Blackmon Lowery and Joanne Bland spoke of their experiences growing up black in Segregated America and their involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Lowery was the youngest to march on Bloody Sunday at 14 years old, and Bland was jailed 13 times by the age of 11 for protesting and participating in demonstrations.

Many children and teens were protesting for the right to vote because their parents were unable to without devastating consequences that would affect their livelihoods. While protesting for the right to vote, they were arrested at the courthouse and sent to jail, where police would put 20 people or more in a cell meant for 1 or 2 people: no bed, privacy, or clean food.

“They let us out, we’d go home and take a bath and I’d find out I still could not sit at that counter and I’d be right back up in their faces, often going back to jail the same day,” Bland said.

These protests for the right to vote in Selma continued until Reverend James Orange was jailed. The police kept him longer than the rest of the protestors, and students and others decided to march to the jail from church to get Rev Orange freed. The police immediately started to attack. Activist Jimmie Lee Jackson was murdered by a police officer while protecting his mother and grandfather, which led to the march of Bloody Sunday.

Bloody Sunday was a protest led by activist and congressman John Lewis, initially planning to go to Montgomery from Selma, Alabama. When protesters reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, named after the confederate general, they were met by police officers and state troopers. The peaceful protest turned into a series of violent police attacks on black protestors in  minutes.

“I felt someone grab me by the back of my collar, jerking me backwards. This person jerked me so hard my not-so-nonviolent mouth bit him,” Lowery said. “Next to him was a Dallas county sheriff deputy and he hit me with something that looked like a small baseball bat. Next to him was another sheriff deputy, he hit and kicked me.”

Police threw out tear gas, chased people with horses, and struck them with clubs because of the protests. That day the protestors were unable to make it to Montgomery.

Lowery was beaten at 14 years old by three men that serviced the state, resulting in her getting 35 stitches.

These two leaders helped pave the way for African-Americans, and as America as a whole, to reach equality and peace. They have made many sacrifices for their future and ours. However, they still encourage people, especially young people, that all work is not done yet. There is still a lot we can do and fight for.

“We still haven’t gone all the way,” Lowery said.
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