Mike Hand, who taught at Briar Cliff University for 40 years, took part in one of the civil rights marches from Selma, Ala., in 1965. Photo by Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Mike Hand is 21 and a student at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, when images of "Bloody Sunday" spur him to action.
They move him 820 miles to be exact. From Davenport to Selma, Ala.
“We got more and more nervous the closer we got to Selma.”
— Mike Hand, retired BCU professor
Hand joins three St. Ambrose pals on a drive to Selma in March 1965. They join 8,000 others, a peaceful throng that includes the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in marching from Selma on the first day of spring.
"We saw the 'Bloody Sunday' stuff on the news and there was a small group from St. Ambrose already going to Selma," says Hand, a retired Briar Cliff University professor who lives in Sioux City. "There were four of us who said we'd go, too."
He remembers a contrast in emotions.
"We left Davenport with our arms in the air, feeling strong," Hand says. "We got more and more nervous the closer we got to Selma."
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Selma, the city 54 miles west of the capital of Montgomery, again makes news. The movie "Selma" — which captures the march, the violence (law enforcement personnel beat participants on the first march from Selma on March 7, 1965, turning them back six blocks after the march began) and the events on the eve of Congress' passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act — was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Hand, 70, who taught history and political science at Briar Cliff, hasn't seen the movie.
Until he does, he reflects on seeing history in real-time, as an enthusiastic, but uneasy, political science major from a small liberal arts college in Iowa, a man intent on helping the disenfranchised.