Undergraduate students from the University of South Florida and Stetson University, as well as students from Stetson's College of Law, attended a symposium with family members of Willie Brewster Sr., a victim of racist violence in Anniston in 1965, as well as with Star Editor Bob Davis and John Fleming, the Star at-large editor who earlier this year wrote a four-part series on Brewster's death.
The group's itinerary includes stops in Albany, Ga., Atlanta, Anniston, Nashville, Tenn., Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma.
Stetson professor Bob Bickel said the students will meet more than 20 civil rights movement veterans in Tennessee to add the "oral tradition" to the students' learning experience.
"It's a combination of meeting them and being in these places, and then connecting it with the history we read," he said. "You've got to make history relevant."
The elder Brewster's story was told by Willie Brewster Jr., by Brewster's widow, Lestine Easley and by the younger Brewster's daughters, Tieshia and Tarmeshia.
"They still have their life," Tieshia Brewster said, referring to the people responsible for her grandfather's death. "A part of our life is missing."
Nicholas Merriweather, a third-year Stetson law student from Savannah, Ga., said the symposium was very informative, and that he enjoys individuals' perspectives on the civil rights era.
"This is a life-changing experience for me," said Merriweather, who said he hopes to focus on civil rights issues as an attorney in Florida. Experiencing individuals' perspectives on civil rights history is different from reading about it, he said.
"I always look at history and everything else in research of the civil rights past as stories of individuals," Merriweather said. "I love the individuals' stories in perspective of reading case books and history books."
Daleville native Lakinta Morrissette, who graduated from Stetson last week, said she thought what the Brewsters shared was "very profound."
"You could see that the family is really trying to move past the pain that is still evident, that it affects them in their everyday lives," Morrissette said. She said the fact that the Brewsters took time to talk with complete strangers about their experience was uplifting and moving.
"As a law student, it makes you realize that you're called to a greater purpose, that your law degree is not in vain — that you have to go out and fight for what's right," she said.
Third-year Stetson law student Vanita Vishnubhakat, from Old Westbury, N.Y., shared similar sentiments.
"This has been, for me, one of the most emotional and touching experiences," Vishnubhakat said. "I think the way you learn is by experiencing and having this kind of conversation. Dialogue is the only way to do this."