December 1: We Arrive in Charleston

hst277t-2009-12-CharlestonOur journey has begun!

We arrived in Charleston today, and we all agree that it is beautiful, with its palmettos trees, Spanish moss, and stunning old houses. Most of the students walked for hours around the city, soaking up the history and the warm southern air. We ate dinner at Jestine’s, a Southern/ Soul food restaurant, where many of us tried fried green tomatoes and Coca Cola cake for the first time.

In Charleston our jobs are to learn about the background of the Civil Rights movement – mostly, slavery and the slave trade- and to think about the way that slavery is being commemorated here in the South. To that end, we will begin tomorrow (a very rainy day, if predictions prove true!) with a visit to the Old Slave Mart and to the Aiken Rhett House.


We asked the students what they expect to get out of this trip.

Here are their responses.



GeorgiaFrom my point of view, The Civil Rights Movement was an important era in African American history and it is important to commemorate and acknowledge the remarkable achievements and figures of this movement. I have great expectations for the Civil Rights mini-term. During this trip I want to gain a tangible, real-life experience of history, one that cannot be found in books, documents or films. I want to imagine myself being there and re-living those important moments during an imperative era in our nation’s history. I want to ask myself the question: would I have had the guts, the audacity, the courage and the bravery to do what these remarkable individuals did at these same spots just a short time ago? Overall, what I hope to gain from this trip is an experience of the Civil Rights Movement that would forever be engrained in my mind; I hope to return with the certainty that every individual has the power to affect change. I am optimistic that this trip would cement a belief I have always had, that as people we must work to change the course of our world. As Frederick Douglass once proclaimed, “without struggle, there can be no progress.” This trip for me would be a journey into a heroic and monumental past, a past that is worth re-living, and a past that constructed our world today while simultaneously inspiring and creating a brighter future.


SarahI have been looking forward to this trip for many reasons. First, this trip has a lot of relevance in our everyday lives. Rather than study the culture of some faraway land we will investigate and debate the complexities of our very own society. Another reason to be excited for this trip is that most of us have never traveled to the Deep South. I expect our group will encounter a whole other kind of American Culture while on this adventure. We also have the opportunity to ‘be in the presence of history.’ We will stand in the very places where importance Civil Rights events took place and have discussions with individuals who lived and participated in the movement. I am most looking forward to the discussions we will have with each other. We have a bright group of people from a diverse set of backgrounds. We stand to learn a lot from this experience and from each other. I expect this will be one of the most valuable experiences I carry away with me from my time at Union College.



Civil Rights Mini-Term 2009! To be honest, I’m expecting a lot from this trip. Being the inaugural group that is doing this, I think it is important for us to get the most out of this experience so that other Union College Students can take part in this trip in the future! I’m really looking forward to getting to know the other group members, seeing the different sites around the South, and dining on some fine Southern cuisine!




MarissaThis being my first time to the majority of these southern cities, I want to be immersed in the culture so different than my own back in New York. I hope to learn as much as I can from each guest speaker, each monument, each museum, each eye-opening experience. I want to fully understand, the the best of my ability, the events of the Civil Rights Movement in the important cities of all the monumental events through seeing, talking and interacting, and most importantly, feeling the presence of the past.




JaredOn this trip, my goal is to relive the moments and get a better insight of what the Civil Rights Movement did. While I’m anxious and curious to see and learn more details from participants and commemorations in the areas we will visit, I am interested to see how findings on this trip will compare to what I have been taught throughout my school tenure. This trip is a very unique and important experience, not only for us now but for students who may follow us. As the last of the participants are getting older and passing away, it is very important to take in what they have to offer as they made the greatest Movement in history a success and it is our job to carry on their legacy.


JessicaComing into this mini-term I’m looking forward to finding out if who I am today is who they were years ago. How has my personality been impacted by their actions? Although I’ve taken two classes on African-American history, it will never have as great of an impact as going to these sites and immersing myself within the past to develop a better understanding of the Civil Rights Movement. Going to these sites where both slaves and Civil Rights pioneers have walked is the closest I will get to understanding the hardship and triumph blacks experienced. After examining how others have interpreted the African-American experience from slavery to the Movement, by the end, the question I will be asking myself is how have I changed since this mini-term and how do I plan on informing others about the Movement, its pioneers, and the impact it has had on their lives regardless of race.


SarayfahMy expectations of this trip are to get to experience what it was like to fight for rights at a time when the black community was seen as inferior. I also want to piece together why the black community is still struggling economically, politically, and socially in the 21st century even though great strides were made during the Civil Rights Movement. Finally, I want to understand why the black community’s ties have broken down. It seems as though the black community has lost its faith in society and why so many advantages are lost to black youth. I hope that this mini-term will help me to better understand what I can do to help my community continue on the path to success and create future leaders of tomorrow.


LizWhile on the Civil Rights Mini-term, I want to understand and develop my own ideas about the history behind our country. I will meet and discuss with leaders and individuals that have been involved with this important era of American history. I want to be able to learn from these speakers about what I do not know about the movement and further understand how they went about stragetizing. I want to understand the non-violence approach and the importance of women’s involvment with the movement. It would be interesting to see how women are represented through public historical displays and memorials. I hope to learn not only from others but to learn about myself on my journey from Charleston, SC to New Orleans, LA. My hope is to change how I view my life and history so that I would be more like those who are teaching me. I know that there are a lot of things that I do not understand but by learning from these men and women I can understand more. I think that after this trip I will value a lot more than what I do now. In this way, I can not only help myself but help others learn about this time in American history. Unfortunately, as time passes the lives and information of these men and women from the movement fade. From this trip, I hope to carry on the tradition of passing down information and stories so that others may know of the struggle to rights and freedom for everyone in this country. By doing so, I will able to learn do my part in piecing together the bits of history that has failed to be recognized.


AaronI have been excited about this trip since before I turned in the application. Just thinking about the opportunity to travel to these cities that for years have been the focus of my studies at Union College was enough for me to brag about. This excitement caused me to gloat to everyone who would listen, and even if they didn’t want to listen, I still made sure they understood the opportunity I had. This trip, to me, is an opportunity of a lifetime. Many of the Mini-Terms at Union College focus on traveling to foreign countries and studying foreign countries when, truth be told, the United States is the home to a lot of history, a lot of beautiful sites, and a lot of good times that we wouldn’t even know about without actually visiting these places in our OWN country. As an American Studies major and African Studies minor this was a trip that I could not possibly pass up. Just from reading the itinerary I expect to not only learn about the Civil Rights movement, but I expect to experience emotions that could not possibly be invoked without visiting these places. This trip is about learning, this trip is about traveling, this trip is about meeting people who without them, the Civil Rights movement may not have turned out the same. Finally, for me, this trip is about creating memories to last a lifetime.


AmandaLast year when I decided to go on this miniterm, I really had no idea what to expect. As I became more familiar with the material through the miniterm classes this fall, it started to hit me that this was not going to be like any other miniterm Union offered. As a group of diverse and integrated students, our objective was to commemorate the Civil Rights Movement through public history.





EwoBefore we began this journey, I had always tried to imagine what it would be like to step inside a history book. And for any time in history I wondered could I have lived this way? And for this particular period of the Civil Rights Movement, I ask myself could I have been so strong? On this trip I have the unique opportunity to explore and experience people and places from the past that affect everything in my present. I hope to learn more about my history and my capabilities, by living in the presence of the past.




JamieWhile we have prepared for this trip and learned a great deal before leaving, I hope that I will be able to build upon this knowledge by visiting the sites where these events took place. I feel as though you can only truly understand the historical significance after talking to the people that were present or being in the same site where it happened. I hope to be able to link what I learned about in school with the people we meet and places we visit.

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