IAN WARD ’19 | ONLINE EDITOR • Over Thanksgiving break, some Wallies skipped the traditional family Thanksgiving Dinner and instead experienced a bus-based immersion trip south of the Mason-Dixon line. This immersion trip included two classes, Political Science 210-Politics of the Civil Rights Movement, and Music 204- African American Music. From the beginning, this trip presented a unique opportunity to learn two types of class material on a trip when only some parts were separate in instruction. What this meant was “at some points the classes split up and did different things, and discussion of experiences followed” Political Science Department Chair Shamira Gelbman said while at other times the classes did the same thing with crossover in topic.
The first stop on the trip included Nashville, Tennessee where students learned about local Civil Rights and Music, as well as a meeting with alumnus Ben Whitehouse ’99. From this point the trip continued into the Deep South with stops in Monteagle, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia. Here, students split up and visited Stone Mountain, Georgia (MUS 204) and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (PSC 210). The National Center “made the civil rights movement come to life before my eyes and the human rights section made me think about what we can do to improve the world today.” Jacques Boulais ‘19 said.
After visiting Atlanta, the bus trip continued its voyage into the heartland of Alabama. Students stayed in Anniston, Alabama, the town notorious for burning a bus full of Freedom Riders after it was disabled. There, students visited the newly created Freedom Riders National Monument. This monument was created in January on the tail end of Obama’s presidency, and as of yet lacks memorialization except the securing of the bus station where the firebombed bus originated in Anniston.
Also in Anniston, the classes’ own bus required attention, requiring a new bus to be dispatched from Indiana to meet the group in Montgomery, Alabama two days later. Luckily through the diligence and hard work of the bus company, no stops of instruction were missed, and the trip never ran behind schedule.
From Anniston, the group moseyed to Birmingham, Alabama where a more civil-rights focused day of instruction awaited them with a tour of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. There, students visited the largest Civil Rights Museum on their schedule.
From there, an Alumni- Funded Dinner led by Cleo Washington “85 graced the students of the trip. In this dinner, multiple alumni from Alabama spoke to students about their experiences Alabama, as well as their professional work.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the immersion trip pushed further along the Civil Rights trail to Selma, Alabama where students walked the same route of the Bloody Sunday March depicted in the movie Selma. After doing so they moved on to Montgomery, Alabama where all participants on the trip experienced a Pre-Thanksgiving Concert of Modern Interpretation Blues. Thus began the trip back north, with stops in Jackson, Mississippi, where students were treated to Thanksgiving Dinner, thanks to a Day of Giving Challenge. From there the bus stopped at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi where students had lunch along with a live blues performance. The group spent their last night in Memphis, Tennessee where students visited either the National Civil Rights Museum or Rock and Soul Museum before returning to campus in the early hours of November 26.
To say the trip was enjoyable is an understatement. Students gained a firsthand understanding of Civil Rights. “The trip made the struggle for civil rights seem much more real than I had previously thought,” Daniel Azar ‘18 said. “The struggle continues today, and I will have to be a part of it to make a difference in the world and stand up for those to whom the system has turned a blind eye.”