Marching in the Steps of the Civil Rights Movement
03/10/2008 - 03/15/2008
Note: Special Schedule 09:00 AM - 05:00 PM
This course meets Monday-Saturday.
For this course, students will travel to Alabama to retrace the unfolding of the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, which has increasingly come to be identified as but a stage of the modern struggle for freedom for blacks in the United States. Such a retracing will enable a rethinking of the path the movement took in order to better understand how it emerged, what were its magnificent triumphs and what were its unfortunate shortcomings and disappointments.
The course will be based, as was much of the early phase of the movement, in Montgomery, Alabama, where Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her seat sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and also where a then little known preacher, Martin Luther King Jr. got his start at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. The class will visit the innovative Rosa Parks Museums at Troy State University in downtown Montgomery. One museum is dedicated to educating children, while the second floor of the main museum is dedicated to research, where students will spend some time looking at historical documents and conducting research with assistance from museum staff. The Montgomery portion of the course will also involve visits to the State Capitol and the first White House of the Confederacy, Dexter King Memorial Church, and the Civil Rights Memorial and Memorial Center at the Southern Poverty Law Center. This segment of the course will conclude with visits with several foot soldiers of the Montgomery Bus Boycott who are still around and continue to be active around issues of social justice. It is such interactions that cannot be provided by simply reading a book or watching a film.
Historians have often noted that one of the preconditions of the kind of activism that defined the Civil Rights Movement was the disappointing return of black war veterans who found themselves still confronting discrimination after having served their country. This dynamic is one that has defined the military participation of Blacks since the 1776 War for National Independence, and led James Baldwin to state that blacks have pledged allegiance to a country that has yet to pledge allegiance to them. To address this dynamic, the class will visit Tuskegee, Alabama, home of Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute and the Tuskegee Airmen Museum. Students will actually meet with Colonel Carter and his wife, Mildred, herself one of the first women to obtain a pilot's license during the 1940s. In addition to visiting the museum, we will hear first hand accounts of the riveting history that would lay the groundwork for the movement.
A decade after the bus boycott, a series of marches occurred that began in Selma and attempted to reach Montgomery. Organized by Amelia Boynton Robinson, the first march was inspired by the continued discrimination together with tactics of intimidation that prevented Selma's black population from registering to vote and exercise their rights. The march was also intended to commemorate the death of Jimmie Jackson, who was attempting to protect his mother during a demonstration. The first Selma march did not make it very far (only to Edmund Pettus Bridge, six blocks away), because lawmen attacked the peaceful demonstrators (in front of the media) with tear gas, clubs, and whips. For this reason, March 7, 1965 became known as Bloody Sunday. The second march was also aborted due to legal constraints. It would only be the third attempt that made it all the way to Montgomery on March 25, 1965. We will visit the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail that memorializes this momentous event in the development of the Civil Rights Movement.
The course will conclude in Birmingham, Alabama, the location of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. On another bloody Sunday, September 15, 1963, members of the Ku Klux Klan planted dynamite in the basement of the church on Youth Day, killing four young girls and injuring many others. We will visit the church, as well as the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, also located on 16th Street. The Institute prides itself for being the only accredited Civil Rights Museum, as well as being designed to inspire reflection and dialogue.
Since the historiography examining this important era in United States history has been increasing at a substantial pace, now is the perfect opportunity to supplement such tremendous history writing with a visit to the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, one that not only transformed the United States, but also became the paradigm for social change across the world. Moreover, central to this travel course we will be trying to understand in a concrete manner, as Martin Luther King Jr. stated in 1968: where do we go from here?
Demetrius Eudell (B.A. Dartmouth College; M.A., Ph.D. Stanford University) is associate professor of history. He is author of The Political Languages of Emancipation in the British Caribbean and the U.S. South (University of North Carolina Press, 2002). Professor Eudell's research interests include the history and culture of the Americas, slavery, abolition, and emancipation. Click here for more information about Demetrius Eudell.
Consent of Instructor Required: No
|Level: GLSP||Credits: 3||Enrollment Limit: 14|
Texts to purchase for this course:
Anne Moody, COMING OF AGE IN MISSISSIPPI
Robert Allen, BLACK AWAKENING IN CAPITALIST AMERICA: AN ANALYTIC HISTORY
Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT: WOMEN WHO STARTED IT
Steven Lawson, DEBATING THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
READING MATERIALS ARE AVAILABLE AT BROAD STREET BOOKS, 45 BROAD STREET, MIDDLETOWN, 860-685-7323 Order your books online
PLEASE NOTE: Texts should be read in the order listed above.
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