Deep South Trip Reflections

Jessica Browne


Saturday, April 15

There was excitement in the air as I arrive at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High
School. I have been anticipating this trip since I heard about it from Mr.
Schechter in the beginning of the school year. I had wanted to go on a
school trip but did not want to go to a different country, because I would
rather do that with my family. I wanted to do something that I would never
again have the chance to do again. Never would I think of taking a trip to
the Deep South to follow the civil rights movement. I knew that this was the
trip for me. I was also interested because I knew the basic facts about the
movement, but I wanted to see the sights, and maybe meet the people.
I could not believe that the day had finally arrived when I went to meet
the bus. I did not know what to expect, but I knew that it was going to be
fun. The bus ride seemed to fly by, as did the flight, before I knew it I
was in Memphis, Tennessee.

Monday, April 16th

We woke up pretty early to make sure we had time to see everything there
was to see. Our first stop was the Lorraine Motel and the National Civil
Rights Museum. This was one of my favorite sights on the trip. It was
amazing to see where Martin Luther King was shot. The museum was excellent
also. It covered many of the same facts that we had learned in Post War and
it had many more that were interesting too. The museum seemed to cover
everything; it even had a pretend bus. The bus was supposed to be the famous
bus that was bombed during the freedom rides. The museum had video clips
playing all over it. Including the more famous clips, for example Martin
Luther King's "I have a dream" speech and less famous video coverage of
Birmingham. We were able to see the room that MLK had stayed in on the
fateful night; the owners had not changed anything. The room had a double
bed that was still messy, and the "food" left over from that morning. It
seemed as though the room was the same as the day he died. They also kept
the room he usually stayed in. By the room he stayed in the night before he
died were two photographs. The first photograph was when he was a making a
speech on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, and the second picture was right
after he was shot. This photograph was terrible to look at. I had never
seen this picture before and it was bizarre. Those photographs were taken
with in minutes of each other, and in those minutes, a tragic death occurred.
They also had two of the cars that were in the parking lot. The museum
really encaptured what the civil rights movement was all about. Even thought
I had heard all of the facts it made them more lifelike and I think it opened
many people's eyes.
We visited Graceland that afternoon. I had a different idea of what it
was going to be like. I thought that it was going to be all on one large
property, but actually, there was a major road splitting the house from the
rest of the amusements. When we took the bus over to the house, it was
weird. The house was not exactly what I thought it was going to be. I
thought the area was going to be larger and the house was going to be bigger.
It was cool because we were able to see what the house looked like when he
actually lived there. The mirrored walls and the shag carpets. Everything
seemed to be made out of gold. The television room was cool because there
were three of them and you could watch three shows at once if you so wished.
I liked the jungle room the best in the house. It had carpet on the floor
and the ceiling. There was a waterfall, and the chair was definitely my
favorite. I thought that it was very special the Elvis and his mom and dad
were buried on the property of Graceland. The inscriptions were lovely and
the garden around the burial sights was spectacular. I thought the eternal
flame was cool because I had never seen one before. I am impressed by the
fact that they could even do that. We also looked at Elvis's two airplanes.
I was very impressed by the decorating. The fact that he had 24 caret gold
belt buckles was amazing. The gold sink was also very impressive. Everything
was decorated so lavishly, I think it would be fun to be able to decorate
your own plane. Everything about Graceland was different than I expected.
It was a great experience because it is a place everyone should visit at
sometime or another.

Tuesday, April 17th

We arose early and headed off to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale.
Mississippi was where the blues were born. The person in charge of the
museum played some CDs of blues music. We were able to listen the first
blues singers, and then we heard some other singers that we were familiar
with. After listening to some amazing blues, we were able to look around the
museum. It had pictures, and farm machinery, dolls, and everything else
imaginable. I think that the most interesting thing was the wax sculpture of
Muddy Waters. It was so lifelike that it scared you the first time you
looked at it. It seemed as though the eyes were following you around the
Not connected to the museum, but right next to it was a refurbished bar.
This is like a place where the black people in the town would go to at night
to listen to blues and talk with your neighbors. It was a place where they
could congregate and not feel the pressure of the white people. We were able
to go inside it before it was completely finished, and it was cool. They had
decorations, a couple pool tables, and a place for a band to play. They
actually might record blues singers there. I think that it was the novelty
of being able to go and look at it, before it was open that really impressed
The next place we stopped was an old plantation, Hopson Plantation. We
went into a large room, which is a bar, as well as a place where the owner
stores all of his antiques. The owner talked to us a bit, and then we were
able to roam around that room, in the tenant farmers houses, and around the
property. Walking around that room was interesting. I saw many interesting
artifacts, but the thing that surprised me the most was the amount of
Confederate flags. We counted over 15 in this room. There was a big flag
hanging from the ceiling as well as little flags scattered around the room.
It was frightening because people who have Confederate flags are usually
racist, and I would never want to spend anytime with anyone who believes that
they are better than people with different colored skin. Outside was
beautiful, with a fountain, large lawns, and fields surrounding the property.
We went into an old tenant farmers house. They were tiny, there was no
where to actually live. I cannot believe that they could stand living in
those quarters. He told us an interesting story. He said that the people
who lived in these houses covered the walls in newspapers. He had presumed
they did this for insulation, but he was told just a little while ago, why
they really did it. They thought that spirits were curious and if they had
nothing to occupy themselves with, they would hurt the people living in the
house. So, in order to keep the spirits amused they put up newspaper so the
spirits could read them and not bother the occupants of the house. This
story really stayed with me because the owner was oblivious to what the
tenants believed and because the story was fun. I love learning about
different theories that different cultures and people have.
This was the day that we met and talked with one of the most interesting
people on the trip. His name is Hollis Watkins, and he was a freedom singer.
He started off by talking to us about the movement. He talked about how he
got into the movement, and what had happened to him. His parents did not
want him in the movement but he went against their wishes and joined anyway.
He was an alternate singer. So when one singer could not go he was there to
help. He sang quite often and loved it. He was so much fun to talk to
because he was so passionate about the movement. He is still working to help
black people get the rights they deserve. He works for a group called
Southern Echo, which works to help the black people receive the same rights
that the average white person receives. He never gave up his goal of helping
his race and people who are less fortunate than he is. The best part of the
visit was when he stood up and decided that it was time for us to start
singing. He taught us a song, before long we were singing, and we did not
sound very bad. He was able to get all of us involved and made all of us
feel good. We were all so impressed and taken aback by his energy we did not
know what to do at first, but before long we did not want him to stop. He
had us so enthralled with every word that came out of his mouth. The best
moment of all was when he had all of us cross our arms and hold hands. He
began the theme song of the movement, and it made me feel as if just singing
makes a difference. I felt that it did not matter what was happening in my
life all that mattered at that moment was singing and that one day we all
shall overcome. I left that building feeling that we all need to help people
who are struggling, it does not matter how old you are or how young.
Everyone can help in one way or another, even if it is just lifting
everyone's morale by singing.

Wednesday, April 18th

We all had fun this day. We were able to do our own thing in the French
Quarter of New Orleans. We had had a very structured trip so far, where we
could only stay at one place for an allotted time. This day was much more
relaxed and we could go at our own pace. We were able to walk around and
take in the sights. There was a lot to look at and there were many shops.
There were shops that are standard, for example Banana Republic and Virgin
Records, but there were many other boutiques that were very fun. The gardens
were spectacular the flowers were in full bloom and had a lot of color. We
were able to lie outside and look at the people who were all around. It was
nice to be able to relax because we had been non-stop since we had all
arrived at school. The food was amazing. We ate in a little French café
and it was perfect. We had had fast food the entire trip so this was a major
treat. In New Orleans, there are many street performers. I saw a man who
had metal all over his body and I saw an angel. They would move if you gave
them money, but otherwise they would stay perfectly still. You could also
get your palm read or a fake tattoo. At times it was a bit nerve-racking,
because we had strange men come up to us and try to talk to us. We had to
make sure we did not get ourselves in trouble, and we had no trouble with
them. All in all New Orleans was one of a kind and fun to see.

Thursday, April 19th

We talked to another amazing person; he was a reporter when the three
civil rights workers were killed. He knew so much information and could have
talked for much longer. He had so much to say and everything he said made an
impression. You could tell that it hurt him very much to think about those
innocent people who were killed. He even said that he had thought about it
everyday for 30 or so years. He knew the men who had killed them, and often
still saw them around town. It was hard for him to see them and know they
were not punished as badly as they should have been. It seemed to be the
same everywhere we went, everyone we talked to still carry the memory of the
movement, and some are continuing their work.
We also went to the grave of James Chaney. Obie Clarke, who had a lot to
say about Chaney, brought us to it. This was one of the most touching parts
of the trip. James Chaney's grave was on the top of a hill in the middle of
nowhere. It seemed to be in the middle of a field with the forest
surrounding it. It was a gorgeous place to put him to rest. He does not
deserve to be put in a crowded cemetery, but to put in a place that is
special. When Obie Clarke was talking to us, he got very choked up. James
Chaney and what he was fighting for is very special to him, and he wants to
do anything and everything in his power to keep Chaney remembered. He was
telling us about Chaney's grave and what people had done to it. For a long
time, there was not much of a gravesite. Some years-back people Meridian
pooled their money, bought a large and beautiful gravestone, and put in an
eternal flame. People continuously went back and trashed the gravesite.
They knocked down the gravestone so many times that finally; the community
put in steel supporters to make sure it would not be moved again. People
also ruined the eternal flame, so it is no longer usable. The fact that
people would trash a gravesite is unbelievable. They have total disregard
for the deceased, and it is just cruel. I wish they would have more respect,
and just let the dead rest in peace.

Friday, April 20th

We were not able to walk across the Pettus Bridge as we had hoped on
Thursday so we were able to fit it in on Friday. I am very glad we were able
to walk it and go inside the Voting Rights Museum. Before we walked across,
I did not really feel the need to. However, after we walked across I was
glad I did. Although all we did was walk, I felt like I had accomplished
something in a weird way. I was glad that Mr. Schechter asked us to. We did
not know whether or no we would be able to go into the Voting Rights Museum,
and I am so happy that we were able to. The woman who greeted us was a
character. She had a mind of her own and did not hold anything back. When
we walked in there was a mirrored wall with hundreds of post-its all over it.
People who were there signed them all. There were people who walked across,
and people who watched other people walk across. I even saw one by a police
officer who was there. That was a shocking one, because most likely he had
beaten the people who tried to walk across. There was another room, which
had clay imprints of feet from people who had walked across the bridge.
Another room was dedicated to strong women in the movement. One room was
tiny, she made all 40 of us get inside it, and we barely fit. She told us
that this was the size of the average cell and there were usually more people
than we had in it. That was a surprise for us, because we never really
thought about it in terms of that. We were then able to talk to Reverend
Reeves, who talked to us about the walk over the bridge. It was interesting
because he asked Martin Luther King to come and help him. He then he had the
privilege to walk with him. I did not expect this part of the trip to be so
interesting and touching but it was.
We also saw a memorial for the civil rights movement. I thought that it
was so amazing. It was so simple yet seemed to be a good choice for the
movement. The upside down cone was weird but it worked for me. The fact
that the designer put all of the major events around the outside was nice
because you could learn from the monument and not just look at it. The quote
on the back wall was terrific it seemed perfect.
We continued on to Birmingham where the four girls were killed in the
church bombing. A camera operator and a reporter met us there, we were
interviewed because of the trip we were taking and because the reporter was
originally from Sudbury. We went into the church and sat down to watch a
quick film of the bombing and the girls. It was a very touching film. It
made you want to find the people who did this and ask them why they could do
such a thing. Four innocent girls were killed for no reason, except that
their skin was a different color. There was also a museum there. The museum
was very good, but by that point, we had seen many museums. They had some
extra exhibits; for example, they made two sets of things, like a schoolroom.
The first schoolroom would be clean, new, and stocked with everything a
child would need. The other schoolroom would have old used equipment and not
enough supplies for all the children. This was to portray what it was like
in the different schools, and that black children did not receive the
equality they deserved. Outside of the museum was a little park. I walked
around it and there were a couple of sculptures, which were very interesting.
The first one was you walked through a doorway and to your left were two
black children and they were being blasted by a fire hose. It was so
impressively done, because the reaction on their faces was frightening.
There was also a sculpture where there were two walls and when you walked
between them, you had to move out of the way of the metal dogs that were
jumping out at you. The dogs looked so real that I almost could not walk
through. They had the teeth bared and looked as if they could eat you. I do
not know how the people fighting in the movement could handle all the things
that the police threw at them. One more sculpture was two black children
behind bars. They looked to be about 7 and 12 very young. It was all very

Saturday, April 21st

The actual grave of Martin Luther King JR. was very beautiful. It was in
a giant pool with a fountain at the top and little waterfalls coming down.
It was so pretty and peaceful. There was also an eternal flame going for
him. The museum was good, and I especially liked the exhibit featuring the
clothes of King and his wife. We then were able to walk around Atlanta and
eat dinner, which was a nice end to this terrific trip.
Sunday, April 22

The original church was there but we were not able to go in because they
were renovating it. The church built another church because the congregation
was getting so big and there were so many visitors. It was weird to be
outside of the church where such an influential person was the pastor. I
chose to rise early and go to a service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. We
were greeted and sat down, and a man came over to ask who we were so they
could introduce us when visitors were welcomed. The beginning of the service
was interesting. They sing a lot and we were able to participate a little.
Then they introduced us as the Christian Group from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional
High School. Mr. Schechter did not know what to write down so he said that
we were the Christian group. Then the entire congregation stood up, went
over to all the visitors, and shook our hands. There were three other groups
visiting. I thought that this was thoughtful and made me feel like a part of
the church. When the pastor spoke was when they rather lost me. I did not
understand what he was talking about and so I zoned out. It was a great
experience I am truly thrilled that I was able to do that. That was our last
outing on our trip to the Deep South. It was sad when it was over because we
had the time of our lives, and learned so much. I hope that someday I will
be able to go back bring my children and show them all the places I went and
everything that I learned.

The Edmund W. Pettus Bridge was made famous in 1965, because of people
trying to gain the right to vote. As a form of protest, people decided to
walk from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama. However, the only way to
get to Montgomery was to cross the bridge. The police were not pleased with
the idea of people making that walk, so they attacked them. This was the
beginning of the Pettus Bridge struggle.
In the 1880's, the people of Selma decided that a bridge should be built
because there was enough traffic. The Selma Bridge Corporation was formed in
1884, and they built the bridge and made it public, but the public would have
to pay tolls to pass over it. By 1940, the amount of traffic was too much
for the horse-and buggy bridge, and it was decided that a new bridge would
need to be built. On May 25, 1940, a brand new bridge was opened. It was
referred to as the "finest bridge between Savannah and San Diego." It was
named the Edmund Winston Pettus Bridge. Pettus was a great person and did
many great things for the city of Selma and Dallas County.
March 7, 1957 was a day that will go down in history as one of the most
horrifying events in the civil rights movement. This day is referred to as
"Bloody Sunday" because of the actions the state and local police officers
took on them. About 525 people began from the Brown Chapel AME Church and
were aiming for the state capitol in Montgomery. They were demonstrating for
the right for black people to vote and to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee
Jackson. Jackson was shot three weeks earlier by a state trooper while
trying to protect his mother at a civil rights demonstration. The Dallas
County Voters League, the Southern Christian Leadership Council, and the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee were all in Alabama trying to push
voting registration, so they thought that this would be a help in their
effort. John Lewis headed SNCC's voter registration effort and it was he and
fellow activist Hosea Williams who led the silent group to the Pettus Bridge.
They were attacked with billy clubs, tear gas and the police officers pushed
them back into Selma. A positive aspect of this day was that there were
television crews and reporters there when the marchers were attacked, and
they got everything on tape. ABC television interrupted a Nazi war crimes
documentary, Judgement in Nuremberg, to show footage of the violence in
Selma. This ironic situation made the people of the country very upset.
Within forty-eight hours, demonstrations in support of the marchers were held
in eighty cities and thousands of famous leaders flew to Selma to help the
On March 9, King decided to lead a "symbolic" march to the bridge. Where
they knelt, prayed, and then returned to Brown Chapel. That night white
vigilantes killed a northern minister, who was in Selma to march. More and
more people wrote and called the White House and Congress. They were being
pressured to do something to help these people.
In Montgomery, Federal Judge Frank Johnson Jr. temporarily restrained
everyone in order to look over the case. On March 17, he decided that the
demonstrators would be allowed to march. On Sunday, March 21, about 3,200
marchers set out for Montgomery under the protection of a federalized
National Guard. They walked about 12 miles a day and slept in fields along
the way. When they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, they were
25,000-strong. After this event, the U.S. Congress passed the Voting Rights
Act of 1965, guaranteeing every American over the age of twenty-one the right
to vote.
This demonstration was an important event because it moved the country.
Like the freedom rides, freedom summer, and the Birmingham bombing, they made
the rest of the country aware of the struggles of the black population. All
of these events outraged many people in the United States, and they all
wanted to help. In the end, the black people received all of the same rights
as their white neighbors. African-Americans are still not completely equal
and are sometimes still looked at as not as good as white people, but they
have made progress. There is a lot more to be done, but we will hopefully
one day succeed in all being equal.

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