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Hagan leads civil rights pilgrimage
Tour includes 'Bloody Sunday' march reenactment
 
Published Thursday, March 14, 2013 7:20 am
by Herbert L. White

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan retraced the steps of 1960s civil rights activists during a tour of historically-significant sites in Alabama.

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PHOTO/OFFICE OF U.S. SEN. KAY HAGAN
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), left, joined a delegation that included Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in laying a wreath at  the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala.


The North Carolina Democrat was co-leader of the Faith and Politics Institute’s 13th Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage in Alabama on March 1-3. Hagan was joined by a delegation of lawmakers from both political parties, religious leaders, and civil rights activists including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and one of the original Freedom Riders.


“I was honored to co-lead this year’s Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage alongside an American hero, Congressman John Lewis,” Hagan said. “Words cannot fully express the emotions I felt visiting these sites that are so meaningful for our civil rights history.”


As part of the tour, Hagan visited the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, where four girls were killed in a blast in 1963.


“It was a privilege to participate in events that commemorated many of the movement’s other pivotal moments, including the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma,” Hagan said.


The delegation also toured the Rosa Parks Museum and Martin Luther King Jr. Parsonage in Montgomery and reenacted the “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the March 7, 1965 procession led by Lewis. He sustained a fractured skull when Alabama state troopers beat the marchers and forced them to retreat. Montgomery’s current police chief, Kevin Murphy, made a personal apology to  Lewis for the department’s failure to protect the Freedom Riders during their trip to Montgomery in 1961 and gave Lewis his badge as a gesture of reconcilation.


“To watch the current chief of police in Montgomery deliver a personal apology to Congressman Lewis was an unbelievable moment,” Hagan said. “There were tears shed as we collectively felt the significance of this moment. The police chief shared how he teaches his officers about the department’s failure on that day to ensure they understand the importance of their roles as officers of the law, and I hope that will go a long way in keeping this important history at the top of our memories.”


In addition to Hagan, Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) served as honorary co-leaders. Representatives Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), Martha Roby (R-Ala.), and Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) were honorary co-hosts and Vice President Joe Biden delivered the keynote address.

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