PC(USA) travel study seminar to explore ‘Legacies and Lessons’ of the civil rights movement

Deadline to apply for 2024 pilgrimage to the southern US is Feb. 23

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Participants in the upcoming travel study seminar will visit the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. (Photo courtesy of Carol B. Highsmith Collection/Library of Congress)

LOUISVILLE — Individuals who want to gain a greater understanding of the civil rights movement and how it continues to be impactful can sign up for a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) travel study seminar that will include visits to three southern states next spring.

Feb. 23, 2024 is the deadline to apply for “Exploring the Legacies and Lessons of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. South,” a 10-day journey from Birmingham, Alabama to Memphis that also includes stops in Mississippi.

The seminar, taking place May 28 to June 6, “is an excellent opportunity to learn in context about the evils of structural racism and its legacies today,” said the Rev. Carl Horton, Coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. “It is also a chance to strengthen the resolve within our denomination and its congregations to confront, repent and atone for the historical harms done and to commit to dismantle the structures and systems of racism that persist today.”

The Rev. Carl Horton (Photo by Rich Copley)

The group will travel from Birmingham to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama, before moving to Jackson, Mississippi, then wrap up the seminar in Memphis.

Along the way, participants will visit important sites, such as the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the infamous Bloody Sunday conflict took place in 1965, and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which is located at the former Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Speakers and panelists will provide historical and contemporary insights during the pilgrimage.

“This travel study seminar provides the opportunity to not only explore historically important sites and learn about the lives of the people who made up the civil rights movement, but to engage with leaders who continue the work of civil rights and racial justice in their communities today,” said Simon Doong, Associate for Peacemaking. “It is not simply a ‘history’ tour.  It is the chance for an active experience about how our country’s past shapes and impacts our present and future with regard to racism.”

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is conducting the travel study seminar in collaboration with the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, the Presbytery of St. Andrew, the Presbytery of Mississippi and the Presbytery of the Mid-South.

There also is a partnership with Princeton Theological Seminary, which has approved the seminar as an alternative form of learning for select students.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a crowd at the March on Washington in 1963. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives)

The seminar is open to anyone, but “the Peacemaking Program especially welcomes new leaders and those preparing for ministry to take part in our programs,” Horton said. “We are thrilled that this and future seminars can be a part of the academic program and contextual learning for students, seminarians and those seeking continuing education.”

The seminar is one of the latest ways that the PC(USA) is addressing one of the core foci of the Matthew 25 invitation: dismantling structural racism.

“We cannot begin to dismantle structural racism without first holding spaces to listen and hear from communities that are impacted and learning about the history of the push for racial justice in the U.S., particularly the civil rights movement,” Doong said. “This travel study seminar provides an opportunity for both.”

The seminar also is relevant, he said, because “today, our country struggles anew with efforts to diminish human rights, restrict voting, revise history, ban books and whitewash our nation’s hard-but-real history of racial inequality and violence.”

Want to learn more about the seminar? Go here for details, including pre-seminar requirements.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is one of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. It is supported by your generous gifts to the Peace and Global Witness Offering.

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