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Students prepare to walk through history

Catching up with Selma's Joanne Bland

In March, 2007, the New York Times had a front page photo of Joanne Bland alongside Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton on the streets of  Selma, Alabama (Bland is third from the left, with Obama).


Three weeks before, Mrs Bland had stood in the same spot with Gordon's eighth grade.

The presidential hopefuls were in Selma for the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee, which commemorates the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a milestone in the civil rights movement.

The Gordon students were also in Selma to trace the same path, accompanied by Mrs Bland. Since 2001, Gordon students have made this trek as part of a three-day fact-finding mission to Alabama and Georgia, one of the climaxes of their yearlong study of twentieth century history.

Bland is remembered fondly by the students and graduates who met her, and the feeling is mutual. Reached by phone this week, as this year's eighth grade class prepares to meet her, Bland said "I get hundreds of schools in here and Gordon, if it is not number one, it is up there in the top two. The students come here well-versed and ready to ask intelligent questions. That is important, because the curriculum I use is just me. The only thing I can speak to is my own experience, and I don't want to impose my way of thinking on anyone. If my way of thinking was perfect, our world would not have the problems that it does. So I need to inspire the children to do their own thinking for themselves."

Asked about the her experience last March, Bland continued: "It was undescribable. Senator Clinton and Senator Obama are both poster children for the voting rights movement I was involved with when I was a kid. We have a viable black, and a viable woman, and one of them stands to be president. Words cannot describe how it was to be standing there, twenty-three years later, and see that portion of the dream come true. When I speak to your children, I hope they will clearly understand that this current situation was unheard of when I was their age, and this a change I saw in my own lifetime."

Gordon's current eighth grade will tour Selma with Mrs Bland on Tuesday, February 12th.

The New York Times article cited above is still available online.

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