Middle Georgia Students Get a Lesson on Civil Rights Justice
Students at Middle Georgia State College got a living history lesson Tuesday. The subject matter was the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.
The blast killed four teenage girls in what became a watershed moment of the civil rights movement.
Students learned there's a difference between justice delayed and justice denied.
"It made me want to cry. I probably did cry a little bit," says Tyisha Harrison who is a student at Middle Georgia State College, learned the details of Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley dying in the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Church during the 1960's civil rights movement.
The storyteller is U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, who in 2002 put the two men responsible for the attack in prison. "It’s a personal story of white kid that grew up in the segregated south," says Jones. To him, working on this case was personal. He grew up in the south and watched as the 16th street church bombing went unsolved for decades.
Middle Georgia State College professors believe his story is just what the students need to put that time period in prospective. "To make that case and make the civil rights struggle really comes alive with student," says Andrew Manis, Assistant Professor of History at Middle Georgia State College.
"I really think that we learned so many lessons from the 50's and the 60's and what happened," says Jones. He shared what it was like prosecuting the case, with evidence and witnesses that only got older with time. He says putting Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton away for life, is a lesson learned for everyone.
"We have to exercise the tolerance, embrace the diversity, celebrate that diversity, rather than try to fight it at every turn," says Jones.
Students say they've learned that the truth is better late than never. "Justice has prevailed for them and they can rest in peace. It lets you know that you can have change, as long as you have faith and hope," says Harrison.
"Hearing somebody who got the bad guys was a hook that I knew would work," adds Andrew Manis after the seminar was done.
Doug Jones was recently recognized for his work in the area of civil rights. He was issued the 15th Anniversary Civil Right Distinguished Service Award.