Last year, 45 education leaders visited historic sites from the civil rights movement throughout Mississippi and Alabama and learned lessons from past and current leaders.
In late November, about 45 people participated in an annual civil rights bus tour organized by the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University and the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama. The Stennis Institute hosts of the Mississippi chapter of IEL’s Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP). Tour participants included EPFP fellows and alumni and community college educators and professionals from Mississippi and Alabama.
The tour included visits to Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Miss., which was burned down by the KKK in 1964; the Meridian Freedom Project and First Union Missionary Baptist Church in Meridian, Miss.; Pettis Bridge in Selma, Ala.; the Rosa Parks Museum and Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala.; and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.
The group heard from Doug Jones, the U.S. Attorney, who led the team of prosecutors and investigators in the re-opened case of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. The tour also included remarks by Jerry Mitchell, who worked to put four Klansmen behind bars for their assassination of NAACP leaders Medgar Evers and Vernon Dahmer, the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, and the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.
A number of the civil rights bus tour participants published blogs and articles about their experiences.
- IEL board member John Merrow published a two-part blog entitled “Will the Past Be Repeated?”
- Mary Kingston Roche (DC EPFP ’10-’11), the director of public policy at IEL’s Coalition for Community Schools wrote a piece for the Huffington Post entitled “The Fragility of Justice and the Ordinary Heroes Who Must Uphold It.”
- Ashley A. Smith, a reporter for Inside Higher Ed, published an article with embedded audio and video from the tour.