University News

English Professor Emeritus to Participate in 10th Annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage

March 4, 2010

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MACOMB, IL -- Janice R. Welsch, Western Illinois University English professor emeritus, has been invited to participate in the 10th Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage, organized by The Faith and Politics Institute and led by Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. Welsch was invited by 17th District Congressman Phil Hare.

According to the letter of invitation, the "bipartisan, interfaith pilgrimages bring people together across political, religious and racial lines, offering opportunities for engaged and reflective dialogue on the value of the civil rights movement as a catalyst in our nation's history and its meaning for us today." The more than 100 U.S. House and Senate members who have participated in the pilgrimages have been joined by guests of the congressmen as well as by civil rights activists, journalists and religious leaders.

"I'm deeply honored and privileged to take part in this year's Civil Rights Pilgrimage. I had initially learned about these annual pilgrimages after watching a documentary. Last year National Public Radio's Nina Tottenberg participated and reported her experience, which served to deepen my interest," Welsch said. "When Congressman Hare was in Macomb last summer, I approached his aide to express my interest in participating, and several weeks ago I received a call from Congressman Hare's office inviting me to attend the 10th annual pilgrimage. I'm looking forward to being a part of this annual historic event."

Beginning Friday, March 5, the delegation will visit sites in Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, AL, including several churches that served as important meeting places for civil rights leaders and museums that commemorate the civil rights movement. Among these are the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham where four young girls were killed in 1963 when a bomb blasted the crowded church; the Rosa Parks Museum and the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery; and the Brown Chapel AME, host of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in Selma. Participants will march across Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate Bloody Sunday when demonstrators were attacked in 1965 by state troopers as they tried to affirm the right of African Americans to vote.

Throughout the three-day pilgrimage, civil rights leaders meet with participants to discuss the ongoing impact and importance of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Welsch, who retired from the English department in 2005, is the co-director of Western's Expanding Cultural Diversity program. During her tenure at Western, she was instrumental in establishing the Cultural Diversity Cadre and implementing the annual Dealing with Difference Institute (DWDI). Welsch also served as director of women's studies (1987-1995) and as director of faculty development (1995-1999).

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