The following post was written by Tracey Haines, a participant on the 2012 Civil Rights Journey.
“We are not alone. We are not alone. We are not alone today.” Those were the words displayed on the movie screen at the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail’s Lowndes Interpretive Center. They were sung as a chorus to “We Shall Overcome,” which you can probably hum yourself. The movie was giving us historical background on the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., so the song was simply serving as the soundtrack in the beginning of the film — but the song and those words took on a bigger role for me later that day.
After our Civil Rights Journey group left the center, we headed toward Selma for a tour of some key sites in the civil-rights movement. One of the places I was most looking forward to seeing was the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This was the bridge from which unarmed civil-rights marchers descended into a sea of state troopers as they attempted their march to Montgomery. (They were marching to protest the murder of Jimmy Lee Jackson and to demand voting rights.) The state troopers teargassed and brutally beat the marchers, eventually turning them back. It took the marchers three tries to successfully complete the march to Montgomery, and it was fraught with hardship. They were ultimately successful and arrived at the Alabama State capitol at the end March 1965.
When walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge — the bridge I had heard about and read about for decades — I was overcome with emotion. And those words came to me. “We are not alone. We are not alone. We are not alone today.” Did those marchers feel that way in 1965? I don’t know, but I certainly hope they found some comfort in their numbers and perhaps in their faith. All I know is that we — our group of Civil Right Journeyers — were not alone.
I’m guessing I was not the only one who felt the spirits of those who went before us as we walked in their footsteps. These people, mostly all just “ordinary” citizens, made so many things possible, including the fact that our group — black, white, gay, straight, male, female, and various ages — could walk across this bridge practically without notice and certainly without raising any alarm. We can travel together, share meals together, and meet together publicly without fear and intimidation. We were not alone today.
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