The UPR Original Series “King’s Road: Where Do We Go From Here?” is an exploration of the ongoing civil rights movement through a contemporary study of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy 50 years after his assassination.
A team from Utah State University will travel to the American South focusing on how the lessons of the past apply to civil rights struggles in the United States today.
“The theme of this year is really to kind of take that idea or the themes of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, and then to bring those to now," said Assistant Professor Jason Gilmore who is part of the group. "To really understand that the civil rights movement never ended. That it’s been an ongoing struggle throughout, and that we’re seeing a resurgence today in many regards, not just with issues of civil rights for African Americans, but civil rights for a number of different groups from across gender lines, across ethnicity, for immigrants, for people labeled with disabilities.”
As Gilmore and his group immerse themselves in the history of King, he anticipates finding parallels with today’s current events. One member of the group is communication studies major Hannah Bundy.
“I think the most exciting thing for me with this trip is just seeing that intersection of politics and civil rights, and seeing that intersection of what happened historically and what’s happening now, because there’s a lot of parallels and a lot of repetition in our history,” she said.
“I’m very passionate about learning from this movement and being able to see how people took action, and positive action," said cultural anthropology major Anna Peterson. "The group that I want to focus on, individuals with disabilities, it’s interesting to see compare and contrast in a way. Because this was a large group of people, they had common social groups, like churches, where they could get together and learn about these movements. And, I guess visiting the South and learning more about this, I want to see how we can initiate actions like this, that turn out in a very positive way.”
“Not only is it just learning about the South and learning about the movement and the people that are going to be there, but just as well as bringing all the knowledge back," said global communication major Azailia Becanegra. "Because there are so many people that we’re going to meet there, that weren’t necessarily major figures that we know about in our history today, and I just can’t wait to come back and teach everyone about what we’ve learned.”
And that’s the main objective in this series, to bring back stories so we can see similarities in our life today.
“So, the trip itself, to a certain extent, follows what we call King’s Road," Gilmore said. "It starts in Atlanta, it goes through Montgomery, through Birmingham, on April 4 it ends in Memphis, Tennessee, and we’ll be there for that. So most of this is really kind of following much of what Martin Luther King did in his days, active days, in the civil rights movement.
"And so, with our focuses, we want to go down as journalists, as students, as teachers, to really uncover the stories that tie yesterday to today, right," Gilmore continues. "So, there were obvious issues that needed to be addressed back then, but unfortunately with the death of Martin Luther King in 1968, I think a lot of people claimed that the civil rights movement had ended, without a recognition of the work that continues to be done, and the work that continues to be needed to be done today, and throughout the time since. So the civil rights movement actually never ended, it just dropped out of the national visibility.”
Gilmore says he and his team plan on bringing the civil rights movement back into visibility, and hopefully with the 50th anniversary of the assassination of King, the world will be watching.
“The idea of “Where do we go from here” is the most important part," he said. "Yes, this is steeped in the idea, the ideas and the contributions of Martin Luther King, but Martin Luther King’s not around anymore, right? It is deeply important that we answer the question every day, “Where do we go from here? How do we take this forward? How do we address the concerns of today?’”
“King’s Road: Where Do We Go From Here?” is an original series that can only be heard on Utah Public Radio. Listen for new episodes throughout the month of April.