UW Comm’s Civil Rights Pilgrimage


On March 1, Chair of the UW Department of Communication David Domke led a group of supporters and students on a seven-day trek across the South to landmarks where critical events happened during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s.

The trip spawned from an excursion by Domke last summer with three former students, in which they visited 15 states and 10 state capitols, starting at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and ending in Little Rock, Arkansas where nine teenagers in 1957 integrated Central High School.

Wanting to share this transformative experience with others, Domke reached out to some friends of the Department and students to join him on a “pilgrimage.” His vision was this: “A pilgrimage is not a vacation: it is an intentional journey of deep substance and meaning, in which people seek to learn, grow, and to understand in profound ways. A pilgrimage is a trip in which we seek to be changed in ways that will better us and the world.”

Thirty people signed on to join Domke: 13 Department supporters, 11 students, 3 staff, and 4 faculty. Notably, the students, staff, and faculty encompassed three universities: UW, Bellevue College, and University of Nebraska-Kearney. Students were partially supported on the trip by the Seattle adults, including UW alumni. It was an inter-generational, inter-racial, geographically diverse group. Main destinations were Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Memphis, Oxford, Jackson, Philadelphia, and Selma.

The sites, such as visiting Unit 17 in Parchman Prison where hundreds of Freedom Riders were held and walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, were paired with visits with “footsoldiers” in the movement. For instance, on the first night the group was joined by Bernard Lafayette, leader of Nashville sit-ins, co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a Freedom Rider, and a participant in the 1965 Selma March.

The undergraduate students from all three colleges wrote blog posts throughout the trip. Click here for a complete list of stories to read how the group was transformed by these incredible experiences. Photos of the trip can be found in the Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2014 set on our Flickr page. Search #uwpilgrimage to find past Twitter updates and Instagrams. The UW College of Arts and Sciences covered the trip in its “Perspectives” newsletter here.