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Queens College Students to Walk in Footsteps of Dr. King

-- Led by Rabbi Moshe Shur, 18 Ethnically and Religiously Diverse Students Will Visit Atlanta and Birmingham and Meet With Leaders of Early Civil Rights Struggle --

FLUSHING, NY, January 2, 2015 -- When Rabbi Moshe Shur was attending Columbia University, he joined other student volunteers in a 1965 and 1966 summer initiative to register disenfranchised voters in six Southern states. As president of the student participants in this national project begun by Rev. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Shur had the opportunity to meet Dr. King who, he says “became a mentor for our lives.”

Martin Luther King Day, celebrated this year on Monday, January 19, is a moment in history for today’s students. But for Shur, the struggle leading up to this national holiday is a living memory that “branded” him, in his words, and molded his future.

Now an adjunct lecturer of history at Queens College of the City University of New York and the retired campus director of Hillel, Shur is attempting to bridge the generational disconnect by deepening students’ understanding of that era in a very personal way. His pilot project, “In the Footsteps of Dr. King,” will bring him, a few Student Life administrators and 18 QC students to Atlanta and Birmingham from January 18-22. The students—Muslim, Christian, Jewish, African-American, and immigrants from many nations—reflect the population of one of America’s most ethnically diverse colleges. Selected based on the quality of their application essays, they will not receive course credit for their participation but are expected to benefit in other, immeasurable ways.

The students will be visiting museums, memorials and historically important sites, participating in a Martin Luther King Day march, and viewing the recently released film Selma. Most importantly, they will be meeting and having in-depth discussions with people who played an active role in the civil rights struggle. These will include Barbara Emerson Williams, daughter of Rev. Hosea Williams (Dr. King’s assistant), whose family foundation established Hosea Feed the Hungry in Atlanta. They’ll also meet with Peter Geffen, a QC grad and close friend of Shur who also volunteered in King’s project. Throughout the trip, students will be using video, photography and writing to record their experiences, which they will share in a campus-wide presentation this spring semester.

Queens College, long associated with the civil rights movement, has a renowned civil rights archive:  Last November, the White House awarded the Medal of Freedom posthumously to QC student Andrew Goodman, who was murdered with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner on June 21, 1964 in Mississippi for their voter-registration work. The college’s clock tower is named in their honor.

“In the Footsteps of Dr. King” is dedicated to the memory and vision of David S. Taub.


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