St. Olaf offers trip that traces the history of the civil rights movement
Last spring, St. Olaf College Associate Professor Emeritus of Religion David Booth led a group of alumni travelers on a trip that traced the history of the American civil rights movement.
They visited historic sites in Jackson, Memphis, Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery where incredible people stood against incredible racism. They met people who were eyewitnesses to key moments in history. They even spoke with a freedom rider who was jailed at age 12.
“There’s a lot of good conversation in this program, and I’m honored to be a part of that conversation,” Booth says.
Now others have the opportunity to join as well. St. Olaf Alumni and Family Travel has opened registration for a second offering of “America’s Struggle for Civil Rights: Religion, Race, and the Work of Justice.” Booth and his wife, retired attorney Ann Tobin, will lead the program October 3-12, 2023. The trip will once again provide participants with the opportunity to explore the history of racial justice in America, including the role religion played as a driving force on both sides of slavery, and the trends we still see today.
In Jackson participants will visit various museums and cultural centers, including the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. This museum includes a timeline of exhibits from the European slave trade to the civil rights era. Participants will also visit Jackson State University and Malaco Records, which has been home to major blues and gospel acts.
In Memphis participants visit the Lorraine Motel, which is now the National Civil Rights Museum. The Lorraine Motel is where Martin Luther King lost his life in 1968. In Birmingham participants will visit the 16th Street Baptist Church and the historic Kelly Ingram Park, the location of many civil rights rallies, demonstrations, and confrontations in the 1960s.
In Selma the group will visit the Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and drive the 54-mile route between Selma and Montgomery known as the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. Lastly, in Montgomery participants will visit the Legacy Museum, try southern cuisine, and visit the Memorial Baptist Church, where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led the congregation.
Meredith Olson ’08 participated in the program last year and highly recommends it to other members of the St. Olaf community. “I took away so much from this trip, including newfound knowledge and perspectives, many multi-generational friends, and ultimately a renewed awareness that while so much time has passed since the civil rights movement, many of the goals of the movement are still not fully realized and there is still much equitable work to be done in our country,” she says.
Olson notes that there’s so much to be gained from physically being in the spaces and regions where key moments of the civil rights movement took place and hearing from those involved in the work.
“We need to bear witness to the atrocities that took place and also recognize that many of the same struggles socially, politically, and economically continue to exist in these regions as well as the entire country,” she says. “It’s hard to put into words, but the content of this trip is something I think everyone should experience in order to become a more compassionate and well rounded human.”
Registration for this trip is open until August 1, 2023.