A Pre-Kindergarten - Grade 12 co-educational independent day school in Westchester County, New York

Traveling Minds: Georgia and Alabama

16 Middle School students entering Grade 8 traveled to Georgia and Alabama, visiting historic civil rights monuments, reflecting on American history, and recognizing the impact that each individual can have on shaping the face of our nation. Coordinated in partnership with EduTrips, and led by MS Social Studies Chair Dr. Kyle Mistchele and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ali Morgan, the four-day journey was designed to complement the students’ eighth-grade history curriculum, which included a focus on American Civil Rights. 

Traveling to the cities of Atlanta, GA, and Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham, AL, students deepened their understanding of American Civil Rights history and figures, including the domestic slave trade, the Jim Crow era, and the evolution of civil rights activism.

"Through travel programs, our students are able to observe the interconnection between individuals and systems. The experience of connecting with others nurtures an awareness about the ways our actions affect and are affected by the actions of the actions of others. This awareness in turn lays a foundation for our students to make meaningful contributions to their broader communities, large and small, throughout their lives."
– Dan Murray, Director of Global Studies

Atlanta, GA
The trip began in Atlanta, where the group toured the Civil Rights Museum and visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park, including the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, Gandhi Promenade, and International World Peace Rose Garden.

At the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site Visitor Center, the group saw Dr. King’s birth home, the crypt of Dr. and Mrs. King, the Eternal Flame, the Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the Freedom Walkway. Seeing the birthplace of Dr. King was a moving experience for the students and chaperones alike. They solemnly reflected on Dr. King’s impact and its reminder that we all have an ability and responsibility to be upstanders and champions for human rights. 

Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma, AL
In Montgomery, Alabama, the group had a guided tour of the Civil Rights Memorial Center, which includes the Legacy Museum and Memorial for Peace and Justice. The museum depicts the history of African Americans in the United States, beginning with slavery through Jim Crow laws and segregation to current issues of mass incarceration and investigates America's history of racial injustice. Following their tours of the museum, students took time for reflective writing assignments. One student journaled, “One of the opportunities we participated in was a simulation of a lunch counter sit-in. While participating, we put on headphones and we placed our hands flat on the counter. We heard racist retorts and we even felt our seats shaking. This experience was eye opening in many ways, and I think it is one of the most important things we have done so far on the trip.” Commenting on the simulation, another student wrote, “This experience made me more thankful for the protests, and it encourages me to become more brave and speak up for what I believe in.”

The students then toured the Rosa Parks Museum, a memorial to the life of civil rights icon Rosa Parks and the lessons of the Montgomery Bus Boycott that brought racial integration to transportation and international attention to civil rights. At this museum, one student was struck by Stephen Mangum’s exhibition titled “Illusions of My Childhood.” She wrote, “Each piece of the art depicts a child standing in the midst of a tragic event, such as the abduction of Emmett Till, lynchings, and other acts of violence, completely unaware of what was happening around them. Many of the children were grinning and blissfully enjoying ice cream. In addition, their faces were vibrant with color while the events in the background were blurry and gray. This was really interesting to me, as it focused on the perception of violence and hate in society and how it was often largely ignored.”

The group then departed for Selma, where they visited the National Voting Rights Museum and they walked the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge and continued to the Interpretive Center. 

In Selma, the students heard from George Sallie, 94, a foot soldier of the Selma march who bears a scar on his forehead from Bloody Sunday– the first attempt at crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge to begin the march to Montgomery, which was violently stopped by state police. Mr. Sallie spoke about the leadership of John Lewis, the 50th Anniversary marked by President Obama, and his ultimate message, which was about forgiveness.

In Birmingham, students viewed the markers at the 16th Avenue Baptist Church, commemorating the four young girls murdered by a KKK bomb weeks after the famous March on Washington in 1963. One student reflected on the experience sharing, “The fact that 3 of these girls were most of our age, 14, and that the other girl was 11 is very saddening. It stands close in my heart because one of the girls, Carole Robertson, was part of the Jack and Jill organization, just like I am. We even have a day to celebrate her and the other three victims. Visiting the church and learning more about the girls in previous museums really made me be thankful for the time I have with the people at Jack and Jill and grateful for the moments I’m creating them.”

Another stop in Birmingham was the Southern Negro League Museum, which houses artifacts from the baseball league was created in 1920 by a group of African-American businessmen and baseball enthusiasts. From 1920 until its demise in 1951, the Negro Southern League served as a feeder route for many great black baseball players to go on to the Negro American League and Negro National League. Another highlight was the group’s guided walk along the Civil Rights trail, including The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Kelly Ingram Park, a public park with emotionally powerful sculptures depicting the civil rights struggle in Birmingham. 

“One of the larger themes of our trip was the role of young people in the ongoing fight for justice. We are even more confident that our young people will continue to make a difference in our world. We are hopeful that our trip was memorable and inspiring to all. We also hope your children will share more about their personal connections with the many places and faces we encountered.” 
– Ali Morgan, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

“On this journey, our students were embodiments of young citizens committed and dedicated to lifelong learning and engagement in social change. Mr. Morgan and I are proud to have been a part of this meaningful experience in their lives. One of the several things we hope to have instilled just a bit more of in each of them is the power of reflection, as it helps us process thought, feeling, and emotion -- about ourselves and our place in our communities and our futures.”
– Kyle Mitschele, Middle School Social Studies Chair

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