On Wednesday morning I got up early and walked to a nearby IHOP for breakfast rather than run the gauntlet of 40 hungry students scrambling for something to eat at the hotel. As I usually do I brought a book with me, which on this occasion was a book I picked up on the civil rights movement in Tuskegee, the day before. Within a few minutes three elderly white men sat at a table to my left. One gentleman noticed what I was reading and we struck up a conversation. I mentioned that I was with a group of students from Boston traveling from Atlanta to Memphis to visit civil rights sites. We chatted for a bit longer, but the last thing he said to me was, “Make sure you tell them we’re not all racists down here.” Continue reading
Last night I returned from an incredible 5-day trip through the civil rights South with a wonderful group of students. Among other things, we sat together in the Ebeneezer Baptist Church, walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, visited Sun Records and got a sneak peak at the new exhibit at the American Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which opens to the public next month. We met with civil rights activists such as lawyer Fred Gray, Selma marcher, Joann Bland, and Freedom Rider Charles Person.
Our trip focused not just on history, but on current racial inequities throughout our country. While visiting with lawyers at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery we discussed the prosecution of minors as adults and the fact that many of these kids are African American. While in Jackson, Mississippi we met with the district attorney of Hinds County, where we discussed the incarceration of children as minors from the perspective of a prosecuting attorney. We met in a courtroom. Once again, our discussion returned to racial inequities in the system. Continue reading
In addition to the Jefferson Davis monument I am also going to talk briefly about the Alabama Confederate Memorial Monument (1898), which commemorates the 122,000 men from the state who fought for the Confederacy. Students will be asked to reflect on the ways in which these monuments reinforced the politics of Jim Crow through a selective memory of the past.
THE KNIGHTLIEST OF THE KNIGHTLY RACE/WHO SINCE THE DAYS OF OLD,/HAVE KEPT THE LAMP OF CHIVALRY/ALIGHT IN HEARTS OF GOLD.”
What do inscriptions such as the one above tell us about who these monuments were meant to include or welcome to the grounds of the Alabama state capitol and who they were meant to exclude? To what extent do these monuments reflect the nature of the legislation that took place inside the capitol throughout the period leading up to the civil rights movement? What does justice mean in such an environment?
I am also going to ask students to reflect on the fact that the four granite figures, representing the four branches of the Confederate military, were completed just south of Boston in Quincy.
So looking forward to heading out tomorrow morning with some incredibly thoughtful students.
On Sunday I head out with roughly 35 students and 3 colleagues for a 5-day tour of the Civil Rights South. We’ve been meeting with students to give them a broad outline of the history and questions that will be covered as we travel from Atlanta to Memphis.
One of my main responsibilities will be to help students make connections between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement through a close examination of monuments and memorials. I want students to understand that the visual reminders of the civil rights struggle are fairly recent additions to the landscape and that they exist in some tension with reminders of the Civil War and the Lost Cause. Continue reading
In a little over three weeks I will be heading out with roughly 35 students on a civil rights tour of the South. Our trip will take us from Atlanta, Georgia to Memphis, Tennessee. Along the way we will stop at some of the most important sites related to the civil rights struggle and talk with various participants, including a Freedom Rider who was on the bus that was firebombed in Anniston, Alabama. My primary responsibility along the way will be to help students make connections with the Civil War and Reconstruction era through the interpretation of various public sites including monuments and buildings. It promises to be an enlightening and enjoyable trip for all involved and yet I have some concerns. Continue reading