The ‘Legacy of Civil Rights’: A firsthand experience

Spring Break is often viewed as a time to relax and travel to tropical places.

During last spring break a group of UW-Whitewater students and facutly traveled to the South to experience what life was like during the civil rights era. Photos and other memorabilia from the trip are on display in Old Main Lane on the second floor of the UC until March 30. Another group of students will take a similar trip this year. Photo by Andrew Smith

However, last spring break, 39 UW-Whitewater students and five staff members traveled south to experience what life was like in the southern states during the civil rights era.

The “Legacy of Civil Rights,” exhibit will feature photographs and other memorabilia submitted by some of the 39 students who went on a trip during Spring Break in 2011.

“The purpose of the trip was to give the opportunity to visit places in the South where Civil Rights history was made in the 1960s,” Dr. James Winship said.

On last year’s trip the group took a bus to Atlanta, Montgomery, Ala., Selma, Ala., and then to Memphis, Tenn.

Career and Leadership Coordinator Chris Hollar said this year the group will travel to Brimingham, Ala., instead of Atlanta.

“They’re going to be taken into a southern Baptist church service, which will be phenomenal,” Hollar said.

Nikki Mandell, who organized this year’s trip, was able to fit in Jacksonville, Miss., where the Freedom Summer 1964 took place. On their way back, the students will stop at the National Civil Rights Museum in Tennessee.

After this year’s trip, there will be a trip every two years.

The “Legacy of Civil Rights” exhibit is a photo documentation of the landmarks and historical sites the group visited last year, including student descriptions and reactions.

“You get the combination of the photos and the experience through the words of the students,” Winship said. “Sometimes it’s hard with exhibits to communicate how powerful something was, but I think this exhibit will give people a sense of that.”

Students or community members who aren’t interested in going on the actual field trip can still take something away from the exhibit Winship said.

“Students should come just to read some of the quotes from the students who went,” Hollar said. “It’s really those comments from the students that are written from the heart. It was really life changing.”

Winship said the exhibit only gives students and community members an idea of what happened on the trip.

“Some of the pieces of the trip you can’t capture with words, or with photos,” Hollar said. “There are so many feelings involved with who you experienced it with and what you saw. Every trip is going to be different based on the people you go with and who you meet.”

Winship said students who go on the trip this year can expect a different experience than the students who went on the trip before them.

“I could probably go on this trip 100 times and still see something I didn’t notice the first time,” Hollar said. “There are so many things that you have to pick and choose between that you could really spend three or four days in each location.”

The exhibit is being showcased in Old Main Lane until March 30.