Sojourn to the Past is a never-to-be-forgotten, seven-day journey of study along the path of the Civil Rights Movement in the American South. The moving classroom experience brings history to life as students visit the sites of the Civil Rights Movement, interact with the leaders who have devoted their lives to the struggle for social justice, and actually feel the lessons in a visceral way that cannot be captured in any textbook.
The journey is important not only for its historic value, but for teaching the real lessons of the Movement: tolerance, justice, compassion, hope, and non-violence, and for helping students recognize how they can relate these lessons to current human rights issues and incorporate these values into everyday life. Students who have participated in Sojourn continually rank it as the “best experience I had in high school.”
The journey begins in Atlanta, Georgia and continues through Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. From the first day, students are immersed in the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement. Students analyze Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in the shadow of the Confederate Mount Rushmore: Stone Mountain. It was at Stone Mountain that the Ku Klux Klan was reborn in the 1920s. This juxtaposition of a message of hope in a setting of entrenched racism serves to challenge participants to take a stand for justice in their schools and communities.
Students meet with U.S. Congressman Lewis, who, like the students, was a young man when he took up the cause for social change. He recounts his numerous personal tribulations in his non-violent quest for equality. Students walk with him, retracing his footsteps across the Edmund Pettus Bridge as he recounts his involvement in Bloody Sunday.
They learn about the non-violent civil rights leader Medgar Evers who was murdered in the driveway of his family home by the Klansman Byron De La Beckwith. The students meet with a member of the Evers family and with Jerry Mitchell, whose investigative reporting helped bring Beckwith to justice. Students discover how different forms of media contributed to the pursuit of justice by reading poems and analyzing songs written about the life and death of Medgar Evers.
Another example of Sojourn’s unique curriculum is an interactive lecture on the historical and Constitutional significance of equal access to education, with a focus on Little Rock Central High School. By watching videos and reading book excerpts, students examine the social and political effects that followed the desegregation of Little Rock. The most emotional point of the day is meeting and interacting with two members of the Little Rock Nine, Minnijean Brown Trickey and Elizabeth Eckford, who recount their first-hand experience as teenagers being on the frontlines of school desegregation. They continue on the journey with the participants as a reminder that ordinary people can do extraordinary things to accomplish change.