Civil rights sites focus of journey

McDaniel instructors lead tour with connections to King, the movement

January 19, 2003|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

On the road and seeking connections to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his teachings, Pam Zappardino was confronted with a reminder of this country's violent and prejudiced past: the 1,400-year-old Angel Oak Tree in Charleston, S.C.

"There was a time in our country's history when that tree was used for lynching," said Zappardino, a McDaniel College instructor who helped lead students, professors, ministers and musicians last week on a tour of civil rights landmarks in the South. "Some of the African-American students are trying to come to grips that not that many years ago, they might have been killed that way."

The journey to the site of the tree was part of the third annual Historical Civil Rights Tour sponsored by the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island and the Ira and Mary Zepp Center for Nonviolence and Peace Education at McDaniel College.

Zappardino and her husband, Charles Collyer, who teach courses on nonviolent social justice movements at McDaniel, took a group of 21 to civil rights landmarks such as the Highlander Center in Tennessee, where King spoke out for civil rights, and Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he was pastor.

The tour's highlights were the weekend events at the King Center in Atlanta, where they were to celebrate the holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader and hear a speech from his widow, Coretta Scott King.

They take to heart King's message of nonviolence as they meet people who walked with him, see places where he learned to develop his skills as an organizer for social change and sing the songs that were used for peace rallies.

"What Dr. King was able to do was to illustrate to people they had options in the way they dealt with problems," Zappardino said. "He showed us there's a way to deal with issues that wouldn't destroy your soul."

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