In February, the ADL Mountain States Region was host to 44 board members and supporters that journeyed to the American South on a Civil Rights Mission to historical sites in Georgia and Alabama. Beginning in Atlanta and continuing on to Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham, the group visited several locations to learn more about slavery, the civil rights movement and current activism aimed at supporting the African American community, combating voter suppression and more.
Stops included Ebenezer Baptist Church, the National Civil and Human Rights Museum and Fair Fight 2020 in Atlanta; the Rosa Parks Museum, the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice (the Lynching Memorial) in Montgomery; the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma and the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham. Participants also met with civil rights leaders Joanne Bland, who was 11 years old during the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, and Bishop Calvin Woods, who was the last person to see Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. alive in Montgomery the night before his murder.
Former ADL Regional Director and Honorary Regional Board Member Sheldon “Shelly” Steinhauser joined the trip as scholar-in-residence. Steinhauser spoke with the group about his experiences marching with Dr. King into Montgomery 55 years ago alongside a delegation of 100 Colorado community members that had flown to Alabama to participate in the last several miles of the march. Rabbi Steven Foster, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Emanuel, also spoke about his experiences in the same march when he was a college student.
In reflecting on that time, Steinhauser said:
“When we arrived at the encampment, we went to shake Dr. King’s hand and to thank him profusely for his courage and moral leadership. And in a quiet, humble voice, he thanked us for the support we and so many others were providing to the African American community.“
Steinhauser further explained,
“After almost no sleep, we joined the other marchers. We passed by homes of African Americans, men, women and children, who came out on their porches and even into the street to bring us water and food because they knew then what we found out after – that all the water spigots in downtown Montgomery near our route had been turned off to deny us water.:
Steinhauser concluded with a reflection of his time in the presence of Dr. King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:
“We stood together at the State Capitol, black and white, Christians and many, many Jews – including Dr. King’s close friend, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel – who joined us and walked arm in arm with Dr. King. And we stood and listened to Dr. King’s powerful and eloquent remarks, even as we were silently stared at by dozens of locals from the balconies of office buildings surrounding the Capitol square, men and women with some of the most hateful stares I had ever witnessed. After the march, Rabbi Heschel said the feeling was so powerful he felt like he was praying with his feet.”
ADL Mountain States Regional Director Scott L. Levin said:
“As I reflect on all we saw on ADL’s Civil Rights Mission, I think about how every moment was amplified by the chance to experience it alongside Scholar-in-Residence Shelly Steinhauser and Rabbi Foster, both of whom were in Montgomery for the Freedom March in 1965.”
To receive information about future trips, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.