Civil Rights Research Experience
March 11, 2018
44 students and teachers from various Minnesota school districts travelled on the Civil Rights Research experience over spring break. The ensemble of students and teachers flew from Minneapolis to Memphis, according to Junior Issy Hackley. The Wayzata school district was joined by students from St. Louis Park, St. Anthony, Armstrong, and the Minneapolis districts.
The purpose of the Civil Rights Research Experience was for students of African American and Native American descent to be exposed to their culture and heritage. According to Hackley, the students “div[ed]into the untold stories and history of African and Native Americans, and applied that knowledge on the trip.”
The students travelled to Memphis by plane, and then to Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma, Tuskegee, and Ft. Jackson by bus according to Hackley. This route was originally intended for just African American students and the research experience was originally split into two strands, the other route for Native American students travelling to the Dakotas, according to Junior Dakota Shelton-Norunner.
According to Hackley, not enough Native American students showed up to the educational classes leading up to the trip.
The students met once a week for a month to learn “what schools don’t typically teach” about African and Native American history, according to Shelton-Norunner.
Due to the lack of Native American students, it was too expensive to have a separate trip to the Dakotas, according to Hackley.
Although Shelton-Norunner and Hackley expressed their regrets of not being able to travel to the Dakotas, Hackley stated that traveling on the African American strand was an unforgettable experience. Hackley stated, “Seeing those around me and how affected they were was a very emotional experience, I can’t put it into words.” Junior Camille Winston stated, “It was a lot of fun to be able to understand someone else’s culture, and pay respect.”
The students spent the trip visiting historical sites such as 16th Street Baptist Church, Edmund Pettus Bridge, and Tuskegee University, according to Winston. “My favorite moment was walking around the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four girls died, and that was really powerful,” said Winston.
According to the Washington Post, the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church was carried out by Ku Klux Klan members; “dynamite reduced the church to rubble, mangling cars in the parking lot and stopping clocks.”
Shelton-Norunner stated his favorite part of the trip was the shocking reenactment the journey of the middle passage, the route taken by slave ships from West Africa to the West Indies, “We weren’t told that we were going to do a reenactment” stated Shelton No-runner.
“It was cool to pay respect to my ancestors who built my world for me,” said Winston,“My greatest takeaway from the experience was learning to be proud of who I am.”