Learning about the Civil Rights Movement from the Civil Rights Movement

A mural in Selma, Ala.

Dominic Gialdini, Highlander Editor

There is not a more direct and personal way of learning about history than experiencing it through the people who made it at the locations where it occurred. Carlmont students have the opportunity to do this very thing by participating in Sojourn to the Past, which takes students on a seven day journey through Georgia and Alabama to see the sights of the Civil Rights Movement and brings them into contact with prominent members of the movement.

Carlmont graduate Sarah Klieves, who went on the journey last year, said, “The experience was absolutely amazing. It was incredible and eye opening to meet and learn about so many amazing people and events and how they helped change history. The speakers were so down to earth and ordinary and were able to do extraordinary things.”

The “amazing people” who Klieves referred to include Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington, Minnijean Brown-Trickey and Elizabeth Eckford, members of the “Little Rock Nine” who desegregated Little Rock Central High School following the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision, and numerous other figures affected by the movement.

During the journey, students partake in college style lectures to learn background information about where they are, whether it be Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. used to preach or Selma, Alabama, where the Selma to Montgomery marches took place. Students also study the people who they meet so they are enabled to ask them questions about their experiences. Those who go on the journey are eligible for college credit for going on the trip.

Government and Economics teacher, Karen Ramroth, who went on Sojourn as a student and continues to go as Carlmont’s chaperone believes that Sojourn is so special “because of from a historical perspective, that rare opportunity to meet people who aren’t going to be around much longer and that the trip is an empowering experience for young people. As a teacher, I get to watch people realize on the trip that they have a voice and can make change.”

Sojourn is a unique experience that the current generation has the ability to experience. As the Civil Rights Movement recedes into the older pages of history, people will no longer have the opportunity to meet those who lived through it, those who continue to inspire and teach students on the trip today.

Senior Tara Ebrahimpour, who went on last year’s journey, said, “Sojourn reinforced my need to not take things for granted. A lot of speakers lost family close to them and it made me realize how easily you can lose someone you love. I was also taught to fight for what I believe in.”

Ramroth feels that Sojourn had a great influence on who she became as a person.

Ramroth said, “I credit Sojourn with making me want to be a teacher and to find a way to make a difference. It also reminds me to keep examining the tough questions: where does racism come from and how do we stop it? Where does power come from and how do we harness it for good?”

Sojourn to the Past meets every Wednesday in E5. Anyone interested in going on the trip, which will take place from Feb. 13 to 19, is encouraged to attend. Those who come will learn about how to prepare and will be assisted in fundraising and informed about extensive financial aid intended to make the trip affordable for anyone who wants to go.

Klieves said, “Anyone who loves history or is inspired to help change things should go on the journey. It will only open their eyes more and inspire them more.”