Azzie Cunningham

Azzie Cunningham (right) and Terri Sewell, Alabama’s first black woman to serve in Congress, are shown together earlier this month at the historic Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama.

The granddaughter of Kuttawa residents Bill and Paula Cunningham joined members of Congress, authors and civil rights activists in the Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage on March 7-8 in Alabama. She was the guest of her uncle, South Carolina Congressman and Lyon County native Joe Cunningham.

“It was an experience I will remember till the day I die. It was raw and emotional, something every young African American, actually everyone should experience. It was a time of reflection and the realization of our country’s history,” said the daughter of John Ryan and Denise Cunningham.

The senior from A.C. Reynolds High School in Asheville, North Carolina, attended many events over the weekend, including a ceremony honoring Ruby Bridges, who was the first black student integrated into public schools in 1960. She also attended a service at the 16th Street Baptist Church, where in 1963 a bombing took place killing four black girls, terrorism that was perpetrated by white supremacists.

She also marched with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and others across the Edmund Pettus Bridge into Selma, Alabama. That is where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other non-violent protestors marched en route to the state capital in 1965 and were met with violent assaults and beatings from armed police.

Cunningham is an award-winning visual artist, and co-founder of the Black Student Union Club. She will be attending Murray State University this fall to study political science and visual art.