Smithsonian Student Travel | Student Journey | Washington, D.C. & Alabama
Engage with issues of race and equity in America on this high school summer program as you travel from Washington, D.C., to Alabama. Begin in the nation’s capital to deepen your understanding of the impacts of racism and systemic injustice in the U.S. Visit Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to examine the legacy of racism. Meet with elected officials, lobbyists, and advocates to discuss the challenges and opportunities of policy creation. Then embark on a journey through the American South to Alabama and meet with grassroots organizations, historians, and artists. Visit historic sites to see firsthand where contemporary social justice issues and movements originated. Explore inspiring initiatives and movements working to dismantle racist policy nationally, and develop concrete plans to enact in your communities back home.
All programs that include Washington, D.C., are contingent on the reopening of Smithsonian Institution museums.
Learn how scientific thought influences discussions around race
Discover the impacts of art and imagery on the communities portrayed
Meet with members of the Equal Justice Initiative
Explore civil rights landmarks to investigate origins of inequality
This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.
Departure • Travel Day • Meet your student travel group and trip leaders in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. • 5 days • Begin your program in the nation’s capital with a group orientation to get to know your peers, then start to develop a shared understanding of the social justice issues you’ll engage with over the course of the trip. On a visit to Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, meet with educators and historians to discuss the historical constructions of race, how conceptions of race have changed over the centuries, the legacy of racism in the United States, and how systemic racism manifests in the 21st century. Consider how injustice might be addressed with legislation and policy at the national level, gaining insights from elected officials, lobbyists, nonprofit organizers, and advocates.
Montgomery, Alabama • 3 days • Next, head south for the rolling hills and red-dirt roads of Alabama. Visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and learn about the victims of racial terror lynchings. Walk in the footsteps of civil rights legends including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, John Lewis and the Freedom Riders, and spend evenings in Montgomery’s vibrant riverfront downtown. Meet with lawyers who advocate for vulnerable populations and get briefed on a case, discuss issues of justice at play, and brainstorm ways to move forward through legal and social action. Explore the connections between the country’s history of slavery and mass incarceration. Learn about barriers to and benefits of prison education programs, see student work, and plan a lesson. Hear stories of wrongful imprisonment and discuss remedies to these injustices.
Selma, Alabama • 2 days • In Selma, walk across the iconic Edmund Pettus Bridge, and spend the afternoon with a local activist and educator. Learn about the state’s difficult path to integration—from George C. Wallace’s infamous “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” to the present-day de facto segregation of sororities and fraternities. Interview Selma residents who remember what life was like before the civil rights movement, and get their take on what has changed and what has not. \
Birmingham, Alabama • 3 days • Visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a Smithsonian Affiliate, to learn about the ongoing struggle for civil rights and practice approaching complex topics with an open mind. Uncover the connections between historical events and modern social realities and movements, such as Black Lives Matter. Visit the Alabama African-American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium and learn about the protection and preservation of sites associated with the Civil Rights movement. Learn to recognize how systems of oppression continue to shape communities and cultures throughout the U.S., debate the merits of different approaches to criminal justice and policing reform. Celebrate your time together with your group and brainstorm ways to bring what you’ve learned home with you to your community.
Return • Travel Day • Fly from Birmingham to your final destination.
The local expert(s) highlighted below are examples of professionals that will join the group at various points throughout the itinerary to add their expertise and insight to the program theme.
Kenneth Mullinax, Civil Rights Historian
Kenneth studied history at The University of Alabama and completed a journalism fellowship at Vanderbilt University with President John F. Kennedy’s civil rights advisor, John Seigenthaler. He was involved in government and politics at an early age and was hired at age 22 by Governor George Wallace as an aide and speechwriter in his fourth term as Alabama’s chief executive. He also served as the spokesman, speechwriter, and legislative assistant for Alabama’s first Black member of Congress, Earl F. Hilliard. He is credited in helping organize the late Congressman John Lewis’s Faith & Politics civil rights tour of Alabama for members of Congress beginning in 1998. Since 1990, he has personally been sponsoring and erecting Alabama historical markers commemorating civil rights. The story of his initial involvement in the Civil Rights movement (at the age of five) may be viewed by watching the documentary titled “Voices of Civil Rights,” which was produced by the U.S. Library of Congress and The History Channel. Since 2008, he has served as Director of Media Relations at Alabama State University in Montgomery, America’s oldest “state-sponsored” historically Black university. Kenneth will spend time with our group in Montgomery, sharing his knowledge and experience working with historic Civil Rights icons while visiting important historic landmarks.
What to Expect
Physical Activity • This is a physically active summer travel program. You can expect to do plenty of walking at each of our destinations. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.
Accommodations • Accommodations at each of our stops are comfortable hotels or hostels with shared rooms separated by gender. Leaders reside with students throughout the program.
Climate • Summers in Washington, D.C., are warm and humid with highs in the mid-80s °F and lows in the 50s. Alabama is similarly warm and humid, with daytime highs averaging 90°F and lows in the 60s and 70s at night.
Meals • We enjoy meals at local restaurants and cafes, and sometimes take picnic lunches to local parks.
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