Sixteen members of Congress were in Birmingham Friday to begin a pilgrimage through the state’s civil rights landmarks.
From a stage in Birmingham’s civil rights district, the bipartisan group led by Rep. John Lewis reminisced on what unfolded there years ago.
“I am old enough to have watched stark division in that park here in Birmingham,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D- Maryland) said. “As a young man in my early 20s, I watched with horror the lack of unity.”
“I saw the signs that said white and colored,” added Rep. Lewis.
One focus of the pilgrimage is to see how people worked together to change that story.
The group of 140 included the congressional delegation, students and seminarians. They traveled to Birmingham’s Civil Rights District, Montgomery and Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge.
“I think it’s so important we be inspired by the story of the civil rights movement, not only because it talks about bravery but it also talks about forgiveness and reconciliation,” said Rep. Terry Sewell (D- Alabama).
Those are traits the bipartisan group acknowledged can be taken back to a divisive Capitol Hill.
“I think it's times like this and pilgrimage like this that reminds us there's so much more in common that we have than what divides us,” said Sewell.
“We want our colleagues in Congress to come here and experience the healing that continues here in Alabama, to know the lessons we've learned from our past and chart our way forward and understand that Alabama has truly become a state where faith and forgiveness is defining our future,” said Rep. Gary Palmer (R- Alabama).
During the media conference, the group only took three questions.
When reporters began asking about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a representative from Rep. Sewell's office ended the event. He was the same man who initially said the group would only answer a few questions about the pilgrimage.
Rep. Palmer did come back to reporters to answer questions about Attorney General Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from investigations involving the campaign.
Palmer said he stood by Sessions. You can hear more about what he had to say on ABC 33/40 News at 10:00 Friday.