Sojourn to the Past

One of my father’s former students became a high-school history teacher and actively fundraises every year to take her students on a phenomenal trip that helps to reframe the history of the United States Civil Rights Movement. Sojourn to the Past is a “ten-day moving classroom” academic immersion program that takes 11th and 12th graders along the path of the United States Civil Rights Movement. This program brings together youth from diverse social, academic, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds in an effort to empower students and educators alike with the historical knowledge and motivation to take responsibility for fostering a society without violence and discrimination.

The trip for students and teachers begins in Atlanta, Georgia and continues through major sites of the Civil Rights struggle including Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham, Alabama, Hattiesburg and Jackson, Mississippi, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee. Participants meet with surviving activists of the period including US Congressman John Lewis, a veteran of Dr. King’s Selma march, and Minnijean Brown Trickey who was one of the Little Rock Nine. Through the combination of historic site visits, oral history and the study of written documents, students and teachers who participate in Sojourn to the Past learn “tolerance, justice, compassion, hope, and non-violence.”

While the Sojourn to the Past trip is currently being offered to 11th and 12th grade students, I believe that this experience would be valuable for students from 5th grade onward. Often, and especially in our public school system, history is taught with heavy reliance on text books, many of which are one-sided and fail to illuminate the rich and diverse experiences that have shaped the world we live in today. Sojourn to the Past is a wonderful way to supplement a standard history curriculum, allowing students and educators to gain a deeper, more hands-on understanding of the Civil Rights Movement. Besides its current use, this is a program that could benefit anyone. It could easily be adapted to community and faith-based groups through institutions like charitable and civic organizations, community centers, churches, synagogues, and mosques.

The Sojourn to the Past trip is a free-standing peace education activity that is already well-designed and fully packaged to promote the historical knowledge and attitudes that are desirable for those interested in non-violent social change. The explicit values to which Sojourn is committed are humanity, diversity, respect and compassion, education, empowerment, social-justice through non-violence, courage and civic responsibility, integrity and accountability, and the creation of an inclusive environment.

Three pillars of peace education are exceptionally upheld through the Sojourn to the Past program. Through the act of bringing together students from diverse backgrounds and exposing them to a common experience, Sojourn helps to build community. By exposing participants to the ways that significant change was accomplished in the past through non-violence and solidarity, Sojourn allows its participants to explore different approaches to peace. Finally, and perhaps most explicitly, Sojourn reframes history by clarifying the relationship between today’s anti-discrimination laws and the struggles of real people a half a century ago.

Check out their website!!

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