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The Civil Rights Trip

The eighth grade journey to Georgia and Alabama

Since 2002, the eighth grade has traveled to Georgia and Alabama to conclude their study of the Civil Rights Movement. They visit historical sites, but it is the people they meet that have the biggest impact; students spend time with veterans of the 1950s and 1960s efforts, and meet community activists working for change in the present day.
 
The cost of the trip is subsidized by the Bready-Lapides Eighth Grade Educational Trip Fund and the Class of 2003 Museum Admissions Fund. This photo essay from 2013 looked back at the first twelve years of this trip, and the impact of these endowed funds.

The 2017 trip

The sixteenth Civil Rights Trip left Monday, February 27th

Gordon's eighth grade has been making the same journey since 2002, but every year's trip is different from the ones before it.
 
The students are new each year.
 
The context of current events shifts.
 
And, sometimes through serendipity and sometimes by design, the itinerary always changes.
 
The 2017 trip contains many of the highlights of the year before, including stops at the Southern Poverty Law Center, Odessa's Blessing restaurant, Bryan Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative, and Atlanta's Center for Civil and Human Rights. Sheyann Webb-Christberg will lead the tour of Selma, and Ann Clemons, who Gordon met in 2015, will once again be Gordon's host in Montgomery.
 
New this year will be an afternoon in Tuskegee, added to the trip on the strong recommendation of Fred Gray, the veteran civil rights lawyer who met with Gordon in Montgomery in 2016.

Day one of the 2017 Civil Rights Trip

East Providence to Atlanta to Montgomery

 
 
 


They headed ten miles via school bus to Caratunk Wildlife Refuge, as part of the first grade study of trees.
 
 


Their final field trip together began with two buses, an airplane and a shuttle train to Atlanta, Georgia, en route to Montgomery, Alabama, as part of their study of the American Civil Rights Movement.
 
 

Gordon eighth graders have been making this trip for sixteen years.
 
 

By now, every new group enjoys a legacy of relationships that Gordon has formed over the years, with bus drivers, activists, tour guides and advocacy organizations.
 
 

The first stop of this year’s trip was Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights, an intense, many-layered museum. 
 
 


It’s split roughly into two halves, with one level devoted to the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. 
 
 

The other floor is organized around the range of struggles for human rights across the globe today.
 
 


The place uses technology wisely and imaginatively.
 
 


Every room has layers of multimedia, and rewards close attention.
 
 

One of the most memorable exhibits is also one of the quietest.
 
 

Against a wall, a wired-up lunch counter offered an unnerving simulation of the intimidation protesters experienced during the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s.
 
 

Gordon students filled every corner of the place, bent in quiet reflection or huddled up with teachers. 
 
 

The common thread throughout the museum was empathy.
 
 
 


How are these people like me, and how are they different?
 
 


Source documents and deep research provided the detail to make it come alive.
 
 


How did white people talk to each other about segregation?
 
 

What did Jim Crow laws actually say?
 
 

What would a universal bill of human rights include?
 
 

Even the life-sized portraits of twentieth-century dictators helped keep the history human-scale.
 
 

At Gordon, these students have been talking about identity since they were very young.
 

Throughout Lower School, they were taught that what you see depends on where you stand.
 
 


The Civil Rights Trip, then, becomes a master class in putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
 
 

They’ll walk the streets of Selma and learn about the brave choices people made there. 
 
 


They’ll meet with lawyers and community organizers working today in Montgomery, Alabama’s capital city.
 
 


And somewhere along the line, they’ll ask themselves: could I do that?
 
dozens more photos from day one, including moments from dinner at Montgomery's Odessa's Blessing
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