Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day Two: Knoxville, TN - Clinton, TN - Nashville, TN

Miles today: 250
Total: 700

Today, we met with one of our favorite speakers, Cynthia Fleming. Cynthia has met with us every year of the trip, and she's always a student favorite. Cynthia graduated from Knoxville College in the 1960s was active in the Black Power movement. She does an excellent job, among other things, of situating the role of the HBCUs in the Civil Rights movement and talking about gender dynamics in the Black Power movement. A professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, she just completed her newest book called Yes We Can? It chronicles black leadership from the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr in 1968 to Obama's election this past fall. She based it on dozens of oral histories that she conducted over the past five years; it will be published this fall.

After a quick lunch, we made our way to the Green McAdoo Cultural Center in Clinton, TN - a new stop for us. The center chronicles the desegregation of Clinton high school, the first public high school in Tennessee to do so. It offers details on how desegregation played out in a small town of 4.000. The National Guard had to guarantee the entrance of the Clinton 12 into the school [see accompanying picture of the tank] given the mob that had gathered. While at the center, we met with Jerry Shattuck, a white student who had been the captain of the football team and senior class president during the 1956-57 school year when the school desegregated.

We then drove to Nashville where we had our first of many discussions, and the themes that emerge each year during the course - non-violence as both strategy and ideology, museum analysis of which stories are told and why, the role of MLK, and grassroots activism/organizing strategies - are already some of the most important questions that students are pondering.

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