Campus echoes with sounds of Civil Rights era

With freedom songs, TCU students from Civil Rights Bus Tour Experience reenact march from chapel.


by Kathryn Hopper
Updated: Monday, March 12, 2012

About 30 students, faculty and staff stream out of Robert Carr Chapel and down University Drive on Sunday's Civil Rights era march. (Photography by Kathryn Hopper)

Robert Carr Chapel echoed with the sounds of the Civil Rights era Sunday afternoon as students sang songs that inspired a generation in the struggle for equality.

The event called “The Soundtrack of a Nation” was the work of TCU students who had gone on January's Civil Rights Bus Tour Experience, a collaborative effort between the departments of history and geography, the TCU Leadership Center; Inclusiveness & Intercultural Services; and the Center for Community Involvement & Service-Learning. The seven-day, five-state tour included stops at the Little Rock high school where nine African-American students pioneered school desegregation and the Atlanta birthplace of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“After we went on the Civil Rights Bus Tour, we were challenged with the idea that we need to take what we learned on the trip and somehow give the information to our school,” says Walter Sanders III, a senior accounting major from Fort Worth.

“It started off with the idea that we would do a concert of ‘Freedom Songs’ that we learned on the trip, but we wanted to do more than just sing ‘Freedom Songs,’ we wanted people to understand where the songs came from, how they lived the songs.

“From there the idea developed into having a whole program and having a march where we can utilize the ‘Freedom Songs’ in what we’re doing,” Sanders says.

Sanders gave the 30 students, faculty and staff gathered for the event a lesson on singing “Freedom Songs,” gospel songs that doubled as protest anthems for marchers in the Civil Rights movement from “This Little Light of Mine” to “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round.”

Photo “When we think of these Freedom Songs, we’re talking about trying to free ourselves, to get past where we’ve been,” Sanders said.

He also challenged them to write their own modern day freedom songs. Those in attendance broke into small groups where they composed songs to promote on topics from women’s rights to university equality. Sanders’ group took on students’ rights, performing a song titled “Tuition, Bring It On Down.”

The event also included a brief lecture from Max Krochmal, assistant professor of history, who described the important role marches play in social and political movements.

“You learn from marching who is on your side and who isn’t,” he said. “The people who are there mocking you, the people who don’t show up and the people who say it’s not going to do anything. You also learn about the people who come out of the woodwork to support you.”

He also said marches aren’t enough, but need to be part of a broader, strategic campaign that includes different ways of engaging the community.

“I hope that for all of you participating, that you’ll be educated,” he said. “That you’ll learn something about recruiting new people and who is on your side and who’s not and that you’ll keep building on this momentum.”

As part of the march, students carried placards describing the social cause they were supporting in the march. A few of the student causes included “human equality” and “the elimination of ignorance or public awareness.”

Marchers traveled from Robert Carr Chapel down University Drive and Bellaire Drive before arriving at the Brown Lupton University Union.

“TCU is supporting us in having this discussion so America can become a better place and TCU can become a better place, not just for certain individuals but for everyone,” Sanders said.

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