Journey through time to experience seeds of social change.
Inside Civil Rights connects people, places, and moments of the civil rights era to the legacy of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and today’s efforts to secure racial justice and policy change. This five-day travel opportunity takes students to the heart of the Civil Rights Movement for an intensive firsthand look at how efforts to dismantle racial discrimination in the South serve as a foundation for today’s campaigns for racial and social justice.
Our experience will begin at the COFO Civil Rights Education Center at Jackson State University, the nerve center for the 1960s Mississippi freedom struggle. Our visit to the center will include learning about the 1963 sit-in movement across the city and Freedom Summer, campaigns in which college students played key roles. While in Jackson, we will also visit the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which makes powerful use of interactive displays and sensory experiences to showcase the courage and determination of Black activists who made Mississippi the epicenter of the mid-20th century civil rights movement. To connect past racial justice struggles to contemporary ones, we will meet with local activists working on a variety of interrelated campaigns for environmental justice, fair policing and representative government.
Driving north into the Mississippi Delta, we will visit several sites connected with the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till, whose death played a key role in galvanizing young Black Americans into a “Till generation” determined to topple white supremacy. Using Emmett Till’s story as a touchstone, we will examine why the justice system failed to hold Till’s killers accountable, the response of the Eisenhower administration, and the impact of media coverage on the Till case. We will also stop in Ruleville to visit the gravesite of Fannie Lou Hamer, a former sharecropper who became one of the most effective civil rights organizers of the 1960s, constantly challenging those around her to commit to a truly representative democracy in which all voices, regardless of wealth or status, carry equal weight. Other stops may focus on Black economic empowerment and institution building, as well as the long history underlying today’s mass incarceration crisis.
Moving on to Little Rock, Arkansas, our traveling classroom will explore the tumultuous 1957 desegregation of Central High School, which prompted President Eisenhower to send federal troops to enforce Brown v. Board of Education. We’ll consider how segregation continues to impact education, housing, culture and economic development today.
The trip will culminate with student participants developing and presenting innovative, forward-looking policy proposals on current issues such as criminal justice policy, voter registration, city-state relations, and racial disparities in education, health care, housing, and economic development.
The study trip is open by application to first-years, sophomores, and juniors who seek a greater understanding of the forces driving and resisting social change.
- Monday, April 1, 4-6 p.m. — Orientation
- Friday, April 22, 6-8 p.m. — Dinner and film viewing
- May 13-17 — Study Trip