Freedom Ride Tour Highlights Nashville's Civil Rights Ties
by Adam Ghassemi
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pastor, activist and humanitarian, but one of Monday's events honoring his legacy tried to teach by showing instead of just telling.
It's an annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ride that isn't easy to take, but Vanderbilt students got an opportunity to get out of the classroom for a lesson on Nashville's role during the Civil Rights movement.
"Our expectation is they walk away with some storytelling history," said organizer Traci Ray. "They're into books. They're well read. They're obviously well educated. But that passing down of information through storytelling is one thing we know they don't get on a regular basis."
"We talked about stuff like this in our history classes, but it's kind of hard to. It's easy to look over this type of thing," said student Aliyah Young.
Freedom Ride Tour is a bus tour of historic sites up and down Jefferson Street that also gets students walking downtown. The tour is led by Nashville Freedom Rider Kwame Lillard.
"If you're black you can't pee in a white man's restaurant. Where do you go? That alley," he told the group to show them firsthand what it was like being black in a 1960s Nashville.
Lillard witnessed the city's journey throughout the movement. He knows what he lived through then is hard to convey to today's generation.
"Most black parents and white parents are ashamed. Let's not bring that up. Those are bygone days and so kids grow up thinking oh that's not important. That shouldn't be discussed," he said.
Educators hope students will retain some of local history even if they are only here for college.
"We hope that our students get a perspective about how Nashville played a role in Civil Rights," Ray said.