The Modern Civil Rights Experience

03/31/2010
historic places

Our nation has come a long way from the intense struggles for racial equality that took place during the 1950s and 60s. The recent election of Barak Obama as the 44th President of the United States was a watershed moment in American history and a vivid reminder of the past.

Many historians are concerned that the facts of the civil rights movement are at risk of being forgotten. Fortunately, much of the history of that era has been preserved in countless cities throughout the South and along the many stops of the “Modern Civil Rights Trail.”

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“We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s well-known paraphrase of Amos 5:24.

Social studies teachers eager to reinforce classroom instruction can take their students to the museums, parks and preserved sites that were the epicenter of the modern civil rights movement.

The “Modern Civil Rights Experience” was created by Travel Adventures exclusively for student groups. The tour begins in Birmingham, Alabama, with stops in Selma and Montgomery, and concludes with a visit to Memphis, Tennessee.

The journey starts with a tour of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. There the students can “take a walk through history.” This state-of-the-art facility is designed to be a self-directed journey through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The museum features photography and audio recordings from the era, multi-media presentations, and dramatic life-size figures.

Adjacent to the museum is the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church where the deadliest moment in the civil rights era occurred. Just days after a six-year battle ended in favor of integrating the Birmingham schools, the church was bombed by Klansmen. Four young girls preparing for Sunday school in the basement were killed. Across the street from the church is Kelly Ingram Park where civil rights activists gathered in the spring of 1963 to march to city hall to oppose racial discrimination.

The next stop on the tour is Montgomery, Ala., often referred to as the “Birthplace of Civil Rights.” Montgomery is home to the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. This is the only church where Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor. Visitors to the church will be enthralled by the large mural depicting the struggles of the movement and landmark moments in Dr. King’s life.

Located just a block south of the church is the Civil Rights Memorial Center. Designed by international artist Maya Lin, the center honors 40 individuals who died between 1954 and 1968. In front of the museum is a black granite table with the names of the martyrs, chronicling the history of the movement in lines that radiate like the hands of a clock. Water emerges from the table’s center and flows evenly across the top. On a curved black granite wall behind the table is engraved, “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s well-known paraphrase of Amos 5:24.

The next stop along the civil rights trail is Selma, Ala. This marks the beginning of the National Historic Selma-to-Montgomery Trail. Student groups can tour the National Voting Rights Museum and walk across The Edmond Pettus Bridge. The National Voting Rights Museum showcases artifacts from the voting rights movement and the Edmond Pettus Bridge is the site of one of the most famous events in the civil rights movement — “Bloody Sunday,” where 600 peaceful protesters were attacked by mounted deputies and state troopers.

The Lowndes County Interpretive Center is the midpoint of the Selma to Montgomery March. Student visitors can relive the events that occurred during the march including the “Tent City” exhibit and artifacts from that era.

The final location on the civil rights trail is Memphis, Tenn. Students can begin their tour at the National Civil Rights Museum located at the original Lorraine Motel, site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1968 assassination. The museum presents the history of the American Civil Rights Movement and includes a reconstruction of the events leading up to that fateful day in 1968.

The Slavehaven Underground Museum is located just minutes from the museum. The original owner, Jacob Burkle, used the home as a way station for slaves escaping to the North on the Underground Railroad. Visitors can see startling displays of auctions, advertisements, and personal artifacts depicting the lives and experiences of slaves in the antebellum South.

There has never been a better time in America to revisit history and gain a perspective on the amazing journey Americans have traveled from the segregated society and tumultuous events in the 1950s and 60s to the united America of 2008 and the historic election of a United States President of African American decent.

Travel Adventures is a student tour provider staffed by educators who understand the needs of teachers. They offer an exclusive Modern Civil Rights Experience Tour for high school students among their many educational travel opportunities. Travel Adventures has served over one half million students since 1987 and its mission is to “empower teachers to create change by expanding the classroom to the world.”

For more information visit www.traveladventures.com.

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Issue 18.3 | Winter/Spring 2017

Southeast Education Network

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