Cary McGehee on 2013 Freedom Tour in Deadline Detroit Cityscape

Civil rights history will gain a personal dimension for 37 Michigan teens who leave Sunday from Detroit on a bus tour through three southern states, following a route taken by Freedom Riders a half-century ago. That earlier anti-segregation crusade began in May 1961 and was marred by violence against black and white passengers exercising their constitutional right to ride Greyhound buses, Michigan Radio commentator Jack Lessenberry recalls in a preview of the new educational trip organized by the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights.

The students, black white and Hispanic, will spend 13 days visiting historic civil rights sites in Mississippi and Alabama, and being trained in the art of nonviolent protest at the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta in Georgia.


They’ll meet with civil rights heroes like Diane Nash. One of their chaperones is the 89-year-old attorney and activist Dean Robb, who is bringing six teenagers from Leelanau County up north.

Here's how the Detroit coalition puts it in a three-page trip description:

They will visit sites of martyrdom, struggle and victory — places in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia where brutality was defeated by steadfast, unwavering courage. . . . This project is an opportunity for young leaders to walk in the footsteps of civil rights leaders, learn the history, study and embody nonviolence, build community and put their learning to use back here in Michigan. 

Stops include an annual memorial in Meridian, Miss., to honor three civil rights workers slain in 1964 -- James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner -- and historic sites in Selma, Ala., and Montgomery, Ala. The bus also will stop at the Viola Liuzzo Memorial (right) alongside a highway in Lowndes County, Ala., where the 39-year-old civil rights worker from Detroit was fatally shot by Ku Klux Klan members after a 1965 Selma to Montgomery march. Cary McGehee, chair of the rights coalition co-founded in Detroit 33 years ago by Bishop Coleman McGehee, her father, tells Lessenberry:.

“A lot of high school students aren’t being taught their history. It is important they understand how we got where we are now, so that they can help move us forward to keep fighting for equal rights and justice.”

  This article originally appeared in Deadline Detroit Cityscape. To view the original article, please click here.

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