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Karen Smith, "'I'd Go Again' Says Marcher" (interview with Phil Lalonde), Hanover College Triangle,  2 Apr. 1965, p. 1.

"You'll feel beforehand that what you're doing is right, but afterward you know it. If it weren't for class obligations I'd go again tomorrow if I felt there was a need."

This was the way junior Phil Lalonde summed up his two-day trip to Montgomery, Alabama last week to participate in the now famous Selma to Montgomery human rights march.

Five Went

Lalonde and four other students Ken Bierman, Judy Helms, Pat Sepowitz, and Ted Lester left Hanover Wednesday morning at 8:00 in Lester's car with a few sandwiches and a borrowed cooler. By 12:00 the same evening they were in the city of Saint Jude, actually a Negro suburb of Montgomery.

The group arrived in time to hear the end of an open air talent show emceed by singer Harry Belafonte, and featuring folksinger Odetta, comedian Dick Gregory, and song writer Bob Dylon who closed the program with undoubtedly his most famous effort "We Shall Overcome."

Sleeping bags which had been thrown into the car came into use that night as three of the group stretched out in an open park and the other two slept in the car. At 6:00 the next morning the Hanover "delegation" was ready for the four or five mile walk into Montgomery. The entire march, of which this was to be the last leg, had been in progress for three days and had covered some 45 miles.

Crowd of 30,000

Two and a half hours after the walk was scheduled to begin at 9:30, the crowd of 30.000 began to march, parts of the miles-long line singing as they went. People who had participated since the first day were designated by orange jackets and allowed to be at the front of the line. The Hanover group fell in directly behind them and so were very near the speaking platform when the march halted in front of the capitol building.

Singers Belafonte, Peter Paul and Mary and Joan Baez entertained the crowd before the program began. The main speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King was preceded by no fewer than 25 introductory speeches by such dignitaries as United Nations delegate Ralph Bunche and the directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Congress of Racial Equality.

The entire program lasted until 4:00. After the five-mile walk back to the city of St. Jude, the five students began the trip back to Hanover. Although tornado warnings halted them overnight in Birmingham, they were back on campus by 1:00 Saturday morning.

Could Feel the Tension

"We didn't encounter violence anywhere," Lalonde stated, "but we could feel the tension we created as outsiders. There was a carload of jeering teen-agers, and those who tried to talk us out of what we were doing. A pair of shocks for Ted's car cost him $34 in an Alabama filling station. We met a man in Birmingham though, who urged us to join the march. We had told him we were on our way to New Orleans, a plan we decided on at the start of the trip."

"We listened to all viewpoints and never disagreed openly. We felt our purpose was to benefit from the experience, not to start arguments. My most rewarding experience came when we were returning from the march to the city of St. Jude. We were always more comfortable in the Negro sections of town anyway. A Negro woman invited us into her corner confectionary store and treated us to cokes and ice cream. Her story as she told it to us was that although she has run her business successfully for many years, she has not been allowed to vote."

"I consider the experience with this Negro lady, a valuable part of my education," he concluded. "This is the reason I would be willing to go again."


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Caroline Brunner (HC 2018) selected this article for Learning in Black and White, a study of African Americans at Hanover College from 1832 to 1980.
This is a faithful transcription of the text as it appears in the print version of the Triangle, available at the Hanover College Archives.



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