New Summer Program to Explore the American South

Starting with the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi and ending with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 12 Andover students will embark on a journey to the American South this June through “The American Civil Rights Movement Immersion Program.” This is the newest addition to the ‘Learning in the World’ program series sponsored by the Tang Institute, which include summer programs such as Niswarth, Huaca, Piette, and more.
Students will visit cities in the American South such as Montgomery, Memphis, Atlanta and Birmingham to gain a deeper understanding of the atmosphere of segregation and racism that existed across the South, according to the Tang Institute website. Students will also have the opportunity to discuss the lasting effects slavery, Jim Crow laws and legal cases that dealt with issues of civil rights.

The purpose of the program is to open students’ eyes to the systemic issues in modern society and inspire them to seek change, said Judith Wombwell, initiator of the program and Instructor and Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance.

“It is difficult to understand, and perhaps, it is easy to ignore some of the ongoing systemic problems facing our nation. When you travel through the south and visit some of these iconic sites, you understand how heroic ordinary people were in the face of horrendous oppression and violence,” said Wombwell.

The trip will also explore the link between race and poverty. Students will also visit impoverished cities and rural areas.

“Rural and urban poverty are extremely different and for somebody not from the south like myself, and seeing that first-hand was truly an eyeopening and shocking experience,” said Allen Grimm, faculty chaperone of the trip and Instructor in the Theatre and Arts Department, in his initial visit to scope out locations.

“Just going to a church or crossing the bridge in Selma, seeing how people were treated and simply being there was particularly moving. The emotions were very palpable,” Grimm said.

He hopes this program will help students connect to and experience the Civil Rights Movement and other aspects of American history first-hand.

Wombwell said, “We will see the balcony where Dr. King Jr. was assassinated, visit the birthplace of the blues, and stand on the steps of the capitol building in Montgomery.” Students will also visit the kitchen in which Dr. King had his spiritual epiphany and the location in which Rosa Parks led her protest.

“It was incredibly emotional to look not only at the historical events, but at the problems and poverty that currently exist in so many areas,” said Wombwell.

In addition to visiting the iconic sites, students will participate in a three day learning experience in the Mississippi Delta at the Sunflower County Freedom Project, where they will collaborate with middle school age students through theater games and exercises.

The Freedom Project is inspired by the freedom struggle in the 1960s. According to its website, the project works to promote educational excellence and leadership development of young people in the community.

Currently, 12 students are signed up for the program, which is scheduled to last approximately ten days. The trip is funded by the Abbot Academy Association.