Stetson Students Retrace Civil Rights Journey with Freedom Rider Ernest “Rip” Patton

Follow the group on their journey by visiting the student blog here:
Professor Robert Bickel with Freedom Rider Rip Patton in front of the Stetson Law library in Gulfport.

Professor Robert Bickel with Freedom Rider Rip Patton during a past visit to Stetson Law in Gulfport. Click for high-resolution image.

In May of 1961, Ernest “Rip” Patton was a 21-year-old drum major at Tennessee State University and Freedom Rider headed for Jackson, Miss., when he was arrested and transferred to Mississippi’s infamous Parchman State Prison.

This June, Rip Patton will retrace that journey, this time joined by Stetson University undergraduate and law students and several nationally respected civil rights scholars as they travel through landmark cities of the American Civil Rights Movement.

History will come alive when Patton and the students spend time in Nashville and Memphis, Tenn., and then travel on to Anniston, Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, Ala., and Atlanta, Ga., from June 4 through June 10.

Civil Rights Movement veterans will share their experiences from 50 years ago, when as children and young adults they helped change the course of American history. Students will meet with civil rights activists, journalists, judges, religious leaders and political figures including John Seigenthaler Sr.; Catherine Burks Brooks; Solomon Seay Jr.; Edward Wood; and Odessa Woolfolk, co-founder of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Students and professors visit the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Students and professors visit the Southern Poverty Law Center. Click for high-resolution image.

Over the past five years, Stetson Law professor Robert Bickel and University of South Florida St. Petersburg history professor Ray Arsenault have led approximately 200 law, political science and history students on the summer voyage.

This year, the group is joined by Stetson University Professor Greg Sapp and historian Jack Bass, author of Unlikely Heroesand Taming the Storm. Arsenault authored Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.

“The students learn how the law shaped, and was shaped by, the direct-action campaign for racial equality – and how the understanding of this relationship between law and the Civil Rights Movement can inspire and prepare students for civic engagement and responsibility as lawyers and community leaders,” said Bickel, who first developed this experiential learning course six years ago.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Boynton v. Virginia.

Students begin their preparation in the classroom at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla., through June 1 studying federal judicial decisions in a course on Constitutional Law and the Civil Rights Movement.

Contact: Brandi Palmer