GULFPORT, FL --In May of 1961, Ernest “Rip” Patton was a 21-year-old drum major at Tennessee State University and Freedom Rider headed for Jackson, Miss., when he was arrested and transferred to Mississippi’s infamous Parchman State Prison.
This June, Rip Patton will retrace that journey, this time joined by Stetson University undergraduate and law students and several nationally respected civil rights scholars as they travel through landmark cities of the American Civil Rights Movement.
“The students learn how the law shaped, and was shaped by, the direct-action campaign for racial equality – and how the understanding of this relationship between law and the Civil Rights Movement can inspire and prepare students for civic engagement and responsibility as lawyers and community leaders”
History will come alive when Patton and the students spend time in Nashville and Memphis, Tenn., and then travel on to Anniston, Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, Ala., and Atlanta, Ga., from June 4 through June 10.
Civil Rights Movement veterans will share their experiences from 50 years ago, when as children and young adults they helped change the course of American history. Students will meet with civil rights activists, journalists, judges, religious leaders and political figures including John Seigenthaler Sr.; Catherine Burks Brooks; Solomon Seay Jr.; Edward Wood; and Odessa Woolfolk, co-founder of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
Over the past five years, Stetson Law professor Robert Bickel and University of South Florida history professor Ray Arsenault have led approximately 200 law, political science and history students on the summer voyage.
This year, the group is joined by Stetson University Professor Greg Sapp and historian Jack Bass, author of Unlikely Heroes and Taming the Storm. Arsenault authored Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.
“The students learn how the law shaped, and was shaped by, the direct-action campaign for racial equality – and how the understanding of this relationship between law and the Civil Rights Movement can inspire and prepare students for civic engagement and responsibility as lawyers and community leaders,” said Bickel, who first developed this experiential learning course six years ago.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Boynton v. Virginia.
Students will begin their work in the classroom on May 23 at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla., studying the history and federal judicial decisions in a course on Constitutional Law and the Civil Rights Movement.