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American Civil Rights Movement Immersion Program

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Snapshot

A two week summer program engaging the complex history of oppression and the fight for civil rights in the American South.

Date: June 2-12, 11 days
Number of Students: 10
Leaders: Judith Wombwell (Director), Allen Grimm, Damany Fischer
Themes: Social Justice, History

The Civil Rights Movement is arguably the most significant and successful struggle for social justice in American History to date. The Movement was directly influenced by and continues to influence social movements globally. The purpose of this trip is to create an immersive and experiential learning environment for our students by visiting the iconic sites of this movement, to walk in the footsteps of the thousands of people, young and old who risked their lives for social change. Students will gain a deeper understanding of the atmosphere of segregation and racism that existed across the South. Although we will focus on events starting with the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi and ending with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the students will gain a deeper understanding of the larger context of the lasting effects of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and the path from Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

For more information on the American Civil Rights Immersion Program, please contact Judith Wombwell (jwombwell@andover.edu), Allen Grimm (agrimm@andover.edu), or Damany Fischer (dfischer@andover.edu).

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More about the Program

This immersion in the Deep South will also provide a glimpse into the current social and economic state in these areas. We will look at the demographics of each of these cities where the overwhelming percentage of people under the poverty line are people of color. Also, we will consider the current state of the school systems and recent upheavals in Memphis and Atlanta in particular. We will look at the recent Supreme Court decision pertaining to Voting Rights. We will experience a service-learning project in conjunction with the Sunflower Freedom Project in the Mississippi Delta, and lastly we will connect this movement to global civil rights movements.

Faculty members Judith Wombwell, Linda Carter-Griffith, Elisabeth Tully and Allen Grimm traveled together in June of 2014 to conduct additional research and further develop their itinerary. The first student trip took place in June of 2015, with the generous support of the Abbot Academy Association.

Student Voices

From a student-written feature by The Phillipian: 

Walking the very roads that civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr. had decades before, ten Andover students embarked on a 10-day trip across the South, visiting iconic sites of the Civil Rights Movement. Over the course of ten days, the group traveled from Missouri to Alabama, visiting important locations like Montgomery, Selma, and Memphis.

Faculty chaperones Allen Grimm, instructor in theater; Damany Fisher, instructor in history; and Judith Wombwell, instructor in dance, led the group on an in depth look at the start of an integral movement in American history.

Touring sites such as the Lorraine Motel (the site of the famed activist’s assassination), and the Southern Poverty Law Center, students gained a deeper understanding of the lasting effects of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and landmark court decisions that passed during the movement. A surprising stop to some was the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, one of the birthplaces of African-American music–most notably soul.

“When you think of civil rights, you don’t think of music, but actually, one of the things this trip sort of explained was how different types of media came together during the movement, and how artists during this movement used what they had in their arsenal in order to talk about what was going on for the rest of their people,” said Zach Ruffin ’17.

“I was never big on history, but I know the civil rights era is really important to pretty much everyone. It marks a change in how people from different viewpoints would eventually come to learn that. People fought to make themselves known, which was very important for everyone to realize. Everyone has a place in the world, no matter how corny that sounds,” he added.

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