This Spring, twenty-three 7th and 8th graders, and four fearless leaders fled the incessant April showers in Telluride bound for warmer weather and a deep dive into American history and southern culture.
The trip began in Atlanta, GA, the birthplace of Martin Luther King, where students toured the historic and iconic Auburn Avenue by bike. Here, they saw the house King grew up in and learned about the power of this once historically black neighborhood in organizing for the civil rights movement. Students also visited the National Center for Human Rights where they interacted with exhibits that showcased provocative and shocking human rights issues spanning from the civil rights movement to the present. A highlight for most students was participating in an emotive and realistic simulation of a lunch counter sit-in. After two days of intense history, students let loose at the Atlanta Braves baseball game.
The next stop was Montgomery. Students continued their exploration of MLK’s life at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where King was a pastor and from where he helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Here, Ms. Wanda, our tour guide, inspired students as they sang with her in church, and listened to her personal story. In Montgomery, students also viewed Maya Lin’s Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center and signed a pledge to uphold the ideals fought for during the movement. In 2018, the Equal Justice Initiative built the Legacy Museum and Memorial to Peace and Justice. Mountain School students visited and were inspired, humbled, and moved by the history these spaces honored.
From Montgomery, the team traveled to Selma to experience the history of the National Voting Rights Movement and meet some of the locals that participated in that movement. Here, the team met Louretta Wimberly, a long-time Mountain School connection and friend. She toured the group through Selma’s historic churches where students heard from local pastors. She also introduced the students to Bruce and Betty Boynton. In the 1950s, Bruce ate at a segregated cafe on the intrastate bus route and was rudely asked to leave. He took his case to court, was represented by Thourgood Marshall, and was the catalyst for the Freedom Riders Movement. To let off steam, students swam and played at the local YMCA. Students also walked across the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge.
The trip finished on a lighter note with a visit to space camp at the US Space and Rocket Museum in Huntsville, Alabama. Here students laughed their way through zero-gravity simulations and rocket building competitions. The last stop was Muscle Shoals where students visited the Fame and Muscle Shoals studios. They learned about the legendary musicians who recorded in these spaces and the role these studios played as microcosms of integration.
Students returned to school and illustrated how the trip influenced them by publishing research and personal blogs, edited photos, and original art inspired by the trip on their class website.