2019 Civil Rights Learning Journey

April 28, 2019

$500 deposit will be due at sign-up and no later than Friday, February 15.

This trip will be capped and we recommend registering early.

Since 2015, Leadership Greater Washington has embarked on a series of Leadership Exchanges dedicated to connecting LGW Members to prominent leadership programs on a national and international level.

The Civil Rights Learning Journey series will underscore the importance of understanding the history of race in America. After we complete this series, all LGW Members are invited to explore history first-hand on a learning journey to the South. This is an opportunity to build a deeper understanding of the movement for civil rights and racial justice in America. Over the course of 3.5 days, we will visit major museums, houses of worship that played significant roles in the activism of the 1960s, and sites of key protests. We will meet individuals who were leaders on the ground in the 1960s and those who are pushing for change today, including:

  • Terri Lee Freeman, President, National Civil Rights Museum at Lorraine Motel + former CEO, Greater Washington Community Foundation
  • Commissioner Tami Sawyer, Shelby County (TN) Board of Commissioners and founder of #TakeEmDown901, a movement to remove Memphis's Confederate statues
  • Former Congressman Mike Espy, 2018 candidate for U.S. Senate from Mississippi
  • Grassroots activists who supported Doug Jones's 2018 campaign for the U.S. Senate from Alabama

Trip Details:

Cost: $3,500 per person

Included: All site fees; speaker honoraria; single-occupancy hotel room each night; transportation to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport; most meals

Not included: Airfare to Memphis & from Birmingham; transportation from Memphis International Airport and some meals

Questions? Contact Debbie Kaplan dkaplan@lgwdc.org 

Learning Journey Itinerary: 

Sunday, April 28: Memphis, TN

Early arrivals can enjoy Memphis attractions. Music lovers, head to Beale Street for live Delta Blues, or tour Graceland or Sun Records. Memphis may be known for its BBQ, but there are a variety of southern dishes to enjoy throughout the city.

Welcome Reception

We will hear from our journey guide, Roscoe Jones, Sr.:

As a 17-year-old in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, Mr. Jones attended the Freedom School in Meridian, MS, where he was a student leader. He served as the President of the Youth Chapter of the NAACP, the Co-Chair of the state-wide Freedom Summer Youth Convention, and participated in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. During Freedom Summer, Mr. Jones worked closely on voter registration efforts with slain activists Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman. A year later, Mr. Jones was in Selma, AL for Bloody Sunday. He returned to make the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, where he watched Dr. Martin Luther  King, Jr., speak outside of the Alabama State Capitol. Mr. Jones will be with us throughout the trip.

Monday, April 29:
Memphis, the Mississippi Delta, and Jackson, MS

Site visits will include:

Clayborn Temple

Throughout the 1960s, Clayborn Temple was Memphis’s staging ground for the civil rights movement. The Temple played a central role in the events of the Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968 and remained a key refuge and meeting place after Dr. King’s assassination.

Mason Temple

Mason Temple served as a focal point of civil rights activities in Memphis during the 1950s and 1960s. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his prophetic "Mountaintop" speech in this church on the eve of his assassination on April 3, 1968 .

National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel 

The National Civil Rights Museum is located at the former Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The room is open for the public to view as it was left by King that evening. 

Sumner & Money, MS: The Emmett Till Story

On August 24, 1955, Till stopped at Bryant’s Grocery. Till was accused of flirting with Carolyn Bryant, a white woman working at the store. After the encounter, Bryant’s husband and his half-brother abducted, tortured, and murdered Till. Historians suggest that the murder sparked a level of outrage that helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement by drawing national attention to injustices in the South. Journeyers will visit what remains of Bryant’s Grocery and the Tallahatchie County Courthouse where his murderers were acquitted.

Group Dinner in Jackson, MS

Over dinner we will hear from:

Jerry Mitchell is an investigative journalist for the Jackson Clarion Ledger and the recipient of over 30 national journalism honors. His work has helped put four Klansmen behind bars: Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 assassination of NAACP leader Medgar Evers; Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers, for ordering the fatal firebombing of NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer in 1966; Bobby Cherry, for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four girls; and Edgar Ray Killen, for helping organize the killings of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.

Hollis Watkins is a lifelong activist and founder of Southern Echo. As a young man in 1961, Watkins became a member and organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, working on the Mississippi Voting Rights Project. He later participated in the first sit-in at the McComb, MS, Woolworth’s lunch counter, for which he was jailed for 34 days. He would later spend an additional 39 days in jail for taking part in a walk-out at a segregated McComb high school. Mr. Watkins is a founder and member of the Civil Rights Veterans of Mississippi.

Tuesday, April 30:
Philadelphia & Meridian, MS, and Selma & Montgomery, AL

Site visits will include:

Medgar Evers Family Home

As a field secretary for the NAACP, Medgar Evers traveled throughout Mississippi encouraging poor African Americans to register to vote, organizing demonstrations, and planning economic boycotts of white-owned companies that practiced discrimination. He also worked to investigate crimes against blacks, including the lynching of Emmett Till. Evers and his family were routinely subjected to threats. On June 12, 1963, Evers was murdered in his driveway by a white supremacist sniper. 

Mt. Zion United Methodist Church 

On June 16, 1964, Mt. Zion United Methodist Church was burned down by the Ku Klux Klan. Klan members severely beat several people who had been attending a meeting there. The burning led movement organizers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman to investigate. A day later, they were murdered by a group of Klan members. Journeyers will hear from church members whose families were beaten about their choices to remain in the community as change agents, and their participation in the Philadelphia Coalition’s work towards racial reconciliation. 

Murder Site of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman & Michael Schwerner 

After visiting the charred remains of Mt. Zion Church, Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were arrested and ordered to leave town. During their drive, a group of Klan members, including law enforcement, kidnapped and murdered them. Their bodies were found 44 days later. Journeyers will also visit James Chaney’s grave site at Okatibbee Missionary Baptist Church.

First Union Missionary Baptist Church 

First Union Missionary Baptist Church has been called the headquarters of civil rights activities among Meridian churches. It was instrumental in forming a group that served as armed watchmen to protect African American leaders and churches from Klan attacks. Dr. King spoke at First Union a month after the disappearance of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. Journeyers will be led in conversation by learning journey leader Roscoe Jones, Sr.

Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church 

Brown Chapel AME Church was a starting point for the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 and, as the meeting place and offices of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the Selma Movement, played a major role in the events that led to the adoption of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Journeyers will be led in a conversation by church docents on the central role the church played in the Selma Movement.  

Edmund Pettus Bridge 

The Edmund Pettus Bridge was the site of Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, when armed police attacked marchers with clubs and tear gas as they were attempting to march to the state capitol in Montgomery. The marchers crossed the bridge again on March 21 and successfully walked to the Capitol building. Journeyers will cross the bridge together led by Roscoe Jones, Sr., in honor of the demonstrators that came before them.

Wednesday, May 1:
Montgomery & Birmingham, AL

Site visits will include:

Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups and other extremists throughout the U.S. and exposes their activities to law enforcement agencies, the media, and the public. Journeyers will be hosted by SPLC staff to discuss the Center’s current litigation as well as their work in different contemporary policy arenas.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church 

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church served as the backbone of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott proved how members of a black community could unite in resistance to segregation, and it heralded a new era of direct action. It also propelled Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. into the national spotlight. In this National Historic Landmark, journeyers will see the modest pulpit where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. began his career and first preached his message of hope and brotherhood. 

Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration

The Equal Justice Initiative, led by Bryan Stevenson, is committed to ending mass incarceration. Located on the site of a former warehouse where black people were enslaved in Montgomery, this museum uses interactive media, sculpture, videography and exhibits to immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of the domestic slave trade, racial terrorism, the Jim Crow South, and the world’s largest prison system. 

Equal Justice Initiative National Memorial for Peace and Justice 

More than 4,400 African Americans were killed by white mobs between 1877 and 1950. Millions more fled the South as refugees from racial terrorism. On a six-acre site overlooking Montgomery, the national lynching memorial is a sacred space for truth-telling and reflection about racial terror in America and its legacy.

Thursday, May 2:
Birmingham, AL

Site visits will include:

Kelly Ingram Park

On May 2, 1963, hundreds of students were arrested when they skipped class to march to downtown Birmingham. When hundreds more gathered the next day, the Commissioner of Public Safety, Bull Connor, used force to halt the demonstration. Images of children blasted by fire hoses, clubbed by police, and attacked by dogs triggered outrage. Despite the violence, children continued to march in what is now known as the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Kelly Ingram Park served as a central staging ground for the demonstrations.

16th Street Baptist Church

The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was an act of white supremacist terrorism that occurred on Sunday, September 15, 1963. Four Klan members planted dynamite beneath the steps located on the east side of the church, killing four girls and injuring 22 others. A funeral for three of the four victims was attended by more than 8,000 mourners, white and black, but no Birmingham city officials. 

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and an affiliate of the Smithsonian, is a cultural and educational research center that promotes a comprehensive understanding of the significance of civil rights developments in Birmingham. 

Additional Trip Information

Flight Details:

Participants must book their own travel to Memphis International Airport on Sunday, April 28, to arrive in time for our evening reception, and from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on Thursday, May 2 after 2:30PM. Do not book travel until you receive final confirmation to do so.

Meal Details:

Most meals are included in the price of the trip, with a few exceptions when participants will have time on their own. The meals provided will highlight local food culture, so they may be meat-heavy and contain fried foods. Trip organizers will do our best to accommodate vegetarian diets, but please be mindful that there may be limitations on what is available. We recommend bringing some snacks with you for some of the longer bus rides.

Lodging Details:

Hotels will be confirmed in Memphis, Jackson, Montgomery, and Birmingham a month in advance of the trip.

Cancellation Policy:

A $500 refundable deposit is due upon registration and no later than February 15. Full payment must be received by March 15, 2019. No refunds will be provided after that date. Please note that significant costs are incurred in planning this gathering, including contractual arrangements with hotels, restaurants, and speakers. We hope you will understand and respect this. 

REGISTER TODAY