Today we began with an early breakfast at camp before loading up the buses to begin our Civil Rights tour. Upon arrival in Montgomery, Alabama we grabbed a quick lunch then were met by Billy Planer of Etgar 36 who eloquently described the story of what led to Rosa Parks’ arrest as students sat, enraptured, at the site of her historic bus ride. Having built the foundation of Civil Rights knowledge, we then proceeded to the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice—an incredibly moving and somber memorial to the more than 4,400 African American men, women and children who were victims of lynching between 1877 and 1950. After exiting the memorial, our entire group circled up to recite a mourner's kaddish for these lives lost and spent time in our small groups debriefing on the experience. Finally, we moved to Montgomery’s Wright Brother’s Park for some relaxation time, a lasagna dinner and a closing presentation from Billy who connected the Civil Rights movement to the Jewish experience. Read about all of this from the students below.
Yesterday we had the chance to visit the Equal Justice Initiative’s Center for Peace and Justice. When you first walked into the center, there was a powerful statue of African Americans who were chained to the ground. As we walked past it, I felt a sense of guilt just because I had more privilege because of the color of my skin. After continuing to walk through and read stories, we got to the plaques. The center had taken all the documented lynchings that had happened and separated them by each county on a plaque. There were hundreds of hanging plaques with counties from all over the US. Every step that we took brought us to see the names of more people who were killed. The experience brought a lot of emotion towards me and my friends as we realized that there were so, so many more lynchings that weren’t documented. After walking through the plaques, we got to see some reasoning behind why some were lynched. The stories were unimaginable. One man got lynched for marrying an African American man to a white woman. By the end, we saw the center’s next goal. They made more plaques and are encouraging the counties that had lynchings to display them in their town square. We loved this idea because it would spread awareness of what had happened. The Equal Justice Initiative Center for Peace and Justice was eye-opening to our grade as we stepped into the reality of what had happened years ago that, in a way, is still continuing today.
When we first got to Alabama, we got the chance to see where Rosa Parks was arrested. We learned about the movement and why they chose Rosa Parks. I never knew that there were so many women before her who did the same thing but were never recognized for it. It was really interesting also learning that Rosa Parks lived a sad life after the bus, she was hated by the black community because she made their lives harder and was also hated by the white community. We connected the events that happened then to the ones that are happening now. It is amazing that they have signs to show where each of these events happened. Even when going to the bathroom we saw a sign that hung in a department store to separate black people and white people in the 1960s. Billy (one of the tour guides), showed us ways that we could help make a change just by doing more research on the brands and stores we support and give money to. We have learned about Civil Rights for years at school, but coming to Alabama and seeing where everything happened made it even more powerful.
Mia A. and Sofia S.
Yesterday we went to the exact spot in Montgomery, Alabama that Rosa Parks inspired many by getting on the white part of the bus. Everywhere in that area we went were signs showing her power by explaining certain historical events. We were not expecting Rosa Parks to be so recognized with statues of her and signs explaining what she did. It was clear that Montgomery is doing their part to own up to the atrocities that they took part in in the 1900s.
Wednesday, April 21 Photo Gallery