A slice of history
Reading about history in books serves a great purpose, but it is rare for students to get the opportunity to meet those who played roles in the events they have read about. Students at UW-Eau Claire will have that chance Thursday, Jan. 26.
Joanne Bland, a civil rights activist from Alabama, will be giving a lecture at 7:30 p.m. in room 007, Phillips Hall. The Blugold Beginnings Learning Community and the student coordinators of the Civil Rights Pilgrimage are hosting the event.
Over winterim, a group of Eau Claire students had the opportunity to spend the day with Bland in her hometown of Selma, Ala. as a part of the 10-day Civil Rights Pilgrimage through the Deep South.
The students spent their time traveling by bus to eight different cities in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee. They visited museums and historical sites, where they learned about the hardships many people had to endure to gain civil rights. During their time with Bland, they went on a tour of Selma and had the opportunity to give back to the community.
Sarah Tweedale, a senior at Eau Claire, has been a trip coordinator for the Civil Rights Pilgrimage since 2009. “(Bland) is an incredible person with a lot of spunk and a lot of sass, and she takes no nonsense,” Tweedale said. “She’s really good at making a call to action, like, ‘I did this for my grandchildren, what are you going to do for your grandchildren?’”
Jordan Kitch, a junior and organizational communications major, also met Bland on the trip.
”(Bland) is very passionate about everything she does, and that is really clear when she talks to you,” Kitch said. “She’s a little intimidating initially, but really she’s just very passionate.”
Bland’s involvement in the civil rights movement began when she was very young. She was involved in various protests that began peacefully, such as Bloody Sunday and Turn Around Tuesday. Unfortunately, the protests often ended with violence from the authorities. According to a university press release, Bland is the youngest person to have been jailed in any of these demonstrations. She was put in jail when she was only 11 years old.
“I’m guessing she’ll talk a lot about the civil rights movement and what happened in her town specifically,” Kitch said. “She spoke to us a lot about what we can still be doing today, so I’m guessing she’ll probably focus on that.”
Tweedale has some advice for those planning on going to the speech.
“Come early,” Tweedale said, “because I think a lot of people will be attending.”
Bland will also be in Eau Claire on Friday, Jan. 27. She will meet with students from a Eau Claire women’s studies course and will give another lecture at North High School.