Students at the Southside Family Charter School in Minneapolis took a Civil Rights History Trip to Montgomery, Selma and Lowndes County in Alabama. Please read their opinions and reflections from the experience.
We went to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). I thought it was really interesting, because I have never learned that in depth about children in the prison system. I never knew how they could put children who are 13 and 14 in prison for life without parole. I thought it was really cool when our guide took us outside to see the memorial of the auction block for the slave trade. It was out in front of the EJI building. I liked when they took us around the office and showed us pictures of people’s stories who started as kids in the prison system.
Ella is 13 years old and a seventh-grade student at Southside Family Charter School in Minneapolis, MN.
Today we went through a slave simulation [at the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute in Selma, AL]. There we saw what it was like to be a slave. I also enjoyed seeing the Voting Rights Museum and walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I also thought it was cool how we did a panel discussion yesterday with people who were part of the Montgomery Civil Rights movement.
Solomon is 13 years old and in the seventh grade at Southside Family Charter School in Minneapolis, MN.
Today we walked over the Edmund Pettus Bridge and that was the bridge that the demonstrators walked over the first time they tried to do the Selma to Montgomery March. That was on Bloody Sunday. We walked over the bridge in pairs of two, silently, to honor the people who were attacked by Jim Clark and his posse men on that day. I thought that was really powerful because we were walking on a place where people who had done a lot for the movement had marched. Also that was the place that was a huge landmark for the movement because the Selma to Montgomery March started there. That march was a big way they were able to get more voting rights, since that was what the Selma movement was all about.
Elizabeth, grade eight
I thought that meeting with Mrs. Jackson was one of the greatest experiences of my life. She had so many pictures and stories to tell. Going through that and she is one of the nicest and most respectful people I’ve ever been with. Especially after all she went through. Also going through the 16th Street Baptist Church. Because when we were there and they talked about the four little girls who were killed I felt really connected to the girls. I just felt really connected.
Nick, grade 7
When we went to the [Birmingham Civil Rights Institute], it was really cool. I didn’t know the museum would be there after we saw this video from behind the screen. The museum had so many facts about everything. There was a room with a Ku Klux Klan outfit. When me and Dova walked into the room there was this screen with what white people thought about blacks and one of the things it said was, “Eenie, meenie, miney, mo, catch a N-word by the toe. If he hollers let him pay, 50 dollars every day”. That really stuck with me, and a little girl said that.
-Sofia, grade 6
I remember when the museum was talking about Emmett Till. And I remember when we went through [Kelly Ingram Park] with Myrna Carter Jackson. And when she was talking about the poles in the park that were broken to show the four little girls who died. And I remember when she was talking about how when you stand from a certain angle it looks like the Martin Luther King statue is walking into the church. And also, back to the museum, when they had two rooms of a white classroom vs. a black classroom and you could really tell the difference between them. They also had a juke box in the museum with all the different singers during that time. They also had a replica of the freedom riders bus. At dinner we met Catherine Burks-Brooks and I remember she was talking about knocking on a door [after getting dropped off by Bull Connor on the Tennessee/Alabama state line in the middle of the night] and her mom told her to knock loud so they would wake up the wife so the wife would let them in. And I remember her talking about getting arrested and how she was smirking in the mug shot.
-Saba, grade 6
I liked today, it was pretty good overall. But I got pretty nervous when I was speaking in front of the city council, in front of the Mayor of Birmingham. And Myrna Carter Jackson was a really cool person to meet and seeing the 16th St. Baptist Church. It was sad to see where the girls were discovered. I liked the statues in Kelly Ingram Park, especially the ones for the four little girls. It was a really nice tribute to them. Also going to the civil rights museum in Birmingham was really cool and the part that I thought was really sad, but I liked it, was the memorial gallery for Denise McNair [one of the four little girls]. It made me really sad because there were baby pictures of her and the dress she was wearing when they discovered her. And it showed in a little glass box the things they found when they discovered her and there was a brick that was lodged in her skull. I also thought meeting Catherine Burks-Brooks was really cool and fun.
-Lulu, grade 6
I really liked the bus tour in Sapelo. I liked looking at the place where they had the slaves [Chocolate Plantation], they were all broken down. I liked talking with Cornelia Walker Bailey [author of “God, Dr. Buzzard and the Bolito Man”] about the new book she is writing…I liked going to the beach and going on the sandbar. I found sand dollars, that was pretty cool. I liked learning that kids on the island have to take the ferry to school because Georgia shut down the school on the island because there were too few kids and they didn’t want to pay for a teacher.
-Hazel is 12 years old and a 7th grade student at Southside Family Charter School in Minneapolis, MN
Today we read about Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner [the three civil rights workers that were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan while out registering voters during Freedom Summer of 1964]. We watched Eyes On the Prize, and there was a white lady named Euvester Simpson, and she was talking about how if it had just been Chaney, it would have just been another body that they found in Mississippi, because they found 7 other bodies when they were looking for them. But because there were two white people who died, people paid attention.
-May is 13 years old and an 8th grade student at Southside Family Charter School in Minneapolis, MN
I think it was really fun to be on Sapelo because you learn about history, you see history that is really old. And it’s also cool to see the old plantations and the buildings. It was cool to have people explaining things on the [tour] bus, the old buildings. It was really amazing to me to meet Cornelia Walker Bailey because she died and came back to life. That was really amazing.
-Luca is 12 years old and a 6th grade student at Southside Family Charter School in Minneapolis, MN
Black people were taken from their homes, worked till their backs broke or until they fell asleep for good.
Beautiful black women, filled with youth, were trapped in the palms of white men’s hands.
They were freed from the dirty work, but let go into their tormentors world.
Couldn’t get an education, couldn’t get a job, had to go back to that dirty work.
Couldn’t go in, couldn’t sit, couldn’t drink, couldn’t watch, couldn’t swim, couldn’t be.
Black people were the planks of wood on the bridge white people needed to cross the river.
Emmett Till, the four girls, Virgil Ware, Johnny Robinson, too many other names unknown, murdered for the color of their skin.
But people stood up. Rosa Parks, MLK, Malcolm X, Hollis Watkins, John Lewis, Fred Shuttlesworth. They all stood up for what was right.
Our world is a better place now. We have integrated schools, people have had a change of heart. Interracial marriages are a normal thing now. The dream of MLK had turned from a dream to reality.
Black and white people sit side-by-side. Reading together or holding hands. Eating together or laughing with each other. America has come so far.
But, the other day, I was in my room, spending my precious, limited time on my new shiny iPhone 4.
I saw an article on two young men, murdered in Florida for the color of their skin.
Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Murdered for wearing hoodies and listening to music. But really, because their skin was dark.
I started looking into more injustices in my time, and I was amazed.
So, dear America, we have come a long way, but we have to go so much farther.
-Nara, grade 7
I liked going to Sapelo [Island] and seeing the oyster and lime buildings and the slave houses. And I also remember the birds in the house. I liked going and seeing the barn. I liked meeting the author of the book God, Dr. Buzzard and the Bolito Man [Cornelia Walker Bailey]. I liked it when we went on the beach and swam in the water. I liked looking for shells on the sandbar. I liked reading Cornelia Walker Bailey’s book.
-Avery is in the 8th grade and a student at Southside Family Charter School in Minneapolis, MN
Meeting with Kwame [Lillard in Nashville] was pretty fun. His reenactment of [the Nashville student sit-ins] was pretty good. Meeting Myrna Carter Jackson [in Birmingham] was good. She was really fun to listen to. I also liked Catherine [Burks Brooks in Birmingham] and Carol [Barner Seay in Americus, GA]. They both tell stories really well. Sapelo was pretty good. I didn’t swim, but the beaches were fun! I liked learning more about it. Then, I have to say, the last two days with Hollis [Watkins in Mississippi] were fun. He’s a great guy. Singing [freedom songs] with him was fun.
– Demetrius is in the 6th grade and a student at Southside Family Charter School in Minneapolis, MN
Well it was a pretty cool day. I learned about Emmett Till, where and how he died, what they did to get him, what he did. But I still don’t think he deserved to get killed. It was fun going to the Fannie Lou Hamer memorial, to give honor to such a strong person. She fought for a lot of things. It’s kinda sad leaving Hollis because he’s fun. I really wanted to see him run. But I hope to see him soon.
– Khalil is in the 7th grade and a student at Southside Family Charter School in Minneapolis, MN
If you have any questions for the teachers or students please email: Tania@southsidefamilyschool.org
School trip photos were taken by: Stephanie Windfeldt | www.mplsbphotos.com