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Morningside Alumni Retell 1965 Selma to Montgomery March Experiences

(03.24.2017) By Rachel Potter — Morningside College hosted a Selma showing, followed by a panel discussion with three Morningside alumni, Margie Weiss, Donna Speak, and Gordon Watson who took part in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery lead by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The three alumni shared their memories from fifty-two years ago.

Watson said, “The movie Selma did a good job of reenacting the actual march from Selma to Montgomery. The movie brings back many emotions.”

Watson remembered clearly that those who were marching were told to never look at any of the community members on the sidewalks.

Watson also remembers at one point making eye contact with a man, and he had never felt “so much hate” in his life.  Weiss shared a similar experience, saying, “This was the first time I [had] ever experienced hate in my life.”

In 1965 Morningside students had to receive permission from the school to take part in the march so they would be excused from classes. Speak knew in her heart that, regardless, she needed to be present for this march.

Being in the march was Speak’s way of fighting the racial harassment and segregation in the south. Speak said, “[My family always said] you don’t just say you [dream of] being in something, you have to do something about it.”

Speaks went to Selma for the entire week of the march, while Weiss and Watson stayed for a few days.

While Speaks was there she stayed with a black family in Selma and was able to experience what the culture was truly like in the south for them. They all agreed that they knew they were not welcomed in Selma or Montgomery by the white people living there.

Watson also shared the story of when they left. “We stayed at a community center at night. The last night there all northern state white people were told to leave.  Forty-five minutes after [we] left, the community center [was] fire bombed. We questioned leaving at the time, but were very grateful for taking their advice when we found out what happened.”

Though these events took place fifty-two years ago, everyone agreed there is progress that still needs to be made for racial equality.

“We have made progress, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I admire the courage of the people who continue to fight for the causes they care about,” stated Speak.