As the saying goes, you never know what it’s like until you walk in someone else’s shoes. Four Hun School students studying African American History since Reconstruction did just that on a three-day immersive learning experience in Atlanta, Georgia and Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma, Alabama last weekend.
The students flew to Atlanta, where they visited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and Martin Luther King’s childhood home. The next morning, they drove to Birmingham, with stops at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young girls were killed in a 1963 bombing, and the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the brutal beatings of civil rights marchers occurred on Bloody Sunday. The four students, along with Otis Douce, their teacher and the School’s Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Global Diversity walked in the footsteps of those very same marchers. On Saturday, the group visited Montgomery’s Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum and Equal Justice Memorial.
“It took just three days to teach what would normally take two weeks,” explains Mr. Douce. “When you see something right in front of you, it becomes less about broad theories and is actionable.”
For the students, the three-day experience, though at times discomfiting, taught an incredibly powerful lesson. “The lunch counter experience (at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights) was a very interesting, yet anxious experience. Feeling the pressure of being hazed just because of the color of my skin was an eye opener,” says Bjorn Macauley ’22. “I didn’t fully understand what it meant to be black before and after reconstruction.” He was particularly moved by the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum. “This entire museum was pretty life-changing for me…we can’t move forward by overlooking the past.”
Bryce Enlow ’23 felt a strong connection to the people of the Civil Rights Movement. “I couldn’t help admiring (the people who died) for their bravery and selflessness, while also wondering if they knew their death would help drive the movement forward. There is also peace in knowing that they didn’t die for nothing.”