Ranier Whipple II returned from spring break with stories to tell about the black history lessons he learned on a civil rights tour though Alabama. Near the end of the three-day journey, the nine-year-old turned his learnings into a prayer – “that we be nice to each other and love people.”
Rainer travelled with his grandmother, Evonne S. Whipple, and 18 other adults. Together they relived the 1963 bombings that took the lives of four girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham; walked the sacred grounds in Montgomery commemorating the lynchings of some 4,400 African Americans; and retraced the steps of hundreds of others who faced danger as they marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965.
When tour members began their walk across the bridge, Ranier froze.
“As brave as he was, he was nervous,” said George Shinhoster, who walked alongside the Isle of Hope School student. “He understood what happened on that bridge. He knew people were beaten on that bridge. He didn’t want that to happen to him.”
Shinhoster and Shirley Miller Gamble, who as teenagers became involved in the fight for equality in Savannah, organized the bus trip to museums and historical sites in Alabama. Through their Majestic Travel civil rights tours, they want people to learn from their history and create positive changes.
Lemuel and Beatrice Campbell celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary by taking the tour. Mrs. Campbell said the Legacy Museum in Montgomery “brought back so many vivid memories…so many emotional feelings.”
The Legacy Museum in downtown Montgomery focuses on the terror filled passages of blacks from enslavement to mass incarceration. The museum’s sister site is the sixacre National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which is also called the lynching museum.
For Edna Branch Jackson, Savannah’s first African American woman mayor, the tour highlighted the importance of sharing this history with young people.
After watching a video about civil rights martyrs at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ranier typed his name on the 20-by-40-foot Wall of Intolerance. He was taking a pledge against intolerance and injustice, which for him meant “to not do bad stuff.”
For most on tour, Ranier’s presence highlighted the necessity of engaging more young people in carrying on the civil rights work begun decades ago. As a banner at the SPLC declared, “The March Continues”.