I grew up in the segregated south, graduated from an all white high school, and started college at a state land-grant university with one African-American student who had to live in town as he could not be accommodated in the dormitories. This was the period of "massive resistance" state legislation to further rationalize segregation. In Virginia during this period, one county closed its schools, rather than integrate, and then transferred the property to white private schools to ensure that white students could be educated but not black students.
As the sit-ins and freedom rides gained momentum, and the nation watched the horrific events in AL, MS and other parts of the south, I was attending school, beginning a career, and starting a family. While I supported the Civil Rights activists in spirit, I was a passive bystander and did not walk the talk.
This pilgrimage is an atonement of sorts for me. I want to see where the critical civil rights events occurred, get a sense of the sacrifices these brave men and women made, and talk to those who stood at the barricades and took the body blows. I expect to have a greater appreciation for those who gave so much so that my mixed-race grand-daughter can achieve what generations of people before her could not. It will better inform my efforts to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.