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TRVL300: Civil Rights Trip

Travel dates: March 9-17, 2018

Dr. Ely Janis

Course description


Detailed itinerary

What participants have to say

For more information


This Spring, we will be taking MCLA students from March 9-17 on a bus tour to the American South to celebrate and commemorate some of the major milestones and events of the Civil Rights Era. Beginning in North Adams, we will visit Washington, D.C.; Greensboro, North Carolina; Atlanta and Albany, Georgia; Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee, and Cincinnati, Ohio. At these sites, students will also have the opportunity to meet with and talk with veterans of the Civil Rights movement and hear their first-hand experiences of this momentous time in American history. Through the generosity of donors to MCLA, this trip will also be heavily subsidized for students. For more information on the trip, please contact Professor Janis at 


To deepen the understanding of the diverse cultural traditions; to examine the historical, social, economic, and political issues of the Modern Civil Rights Movement critically and comparatively; to illustrate the interplay between tradition and history in the context of 21st century society; and to produce a reflective project using both course material and first-hand observations.

This is a 3-credit hour course and prior to and after the trip, students will meet weekly as a group with Professor Ely Janis, the faculty leader of the trip, to study and discuss issues related to the Civil Rights movement's history, politics, culture and impact on society. Students will have required readings and complete written assignments and presentations. During the trip, students will keep a journal addressing their experiences and daily reflection questions. After returning to MCLA, students will complete a project based on their knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement and their experiences on the trip.


Students will be evaluated on the following: attendance at on-campus classes, participation in classroom and on-site discussions, quizzes, in-class presentations, travel journals, written reflections, and a final project. Students’ behavior during the travel portion of the course will also play a large role in their final grade.


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The total for the trip is $750.00 for MCLA students.

A payment of $300 must be made by October 31, 2017 to reserve your spot. Subsequent payments are: $250 by December 31st and $250 by January 17, 2018.

This fee includes:

  • Round trip bus transportation from North Adams
  • Books and Supplies
  • Overnight stays in hotels.
  • Group Meals*
  • Talks by Civil Rights Activists
  • Guided sightseeing tours at all sites, as well as admission to all museums.
  • Three upper-level credits possible for students enrolled at MCLA

*Participants are responsible for non-group meals and personal expenses.


 We will be staying in overnight in hotels for the duration of our trip.

Getting around

We will have a comfortable, air-conditioned bus during our trip. The bus will have wi-fi and power outlets. During the trip, we will also watch DVD documentaries and other materials.  



Day 1/March 9th:We will depart North Adams on our bus early in the morning and head to Washington, D.C. where we will visit the Lincoln Memorial and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.  You will then have a free evening in Washington, D.C.

Day 2/March 10th: Leaving in the morning, we make our way to Greensboro, North Carolina, birthplace of the sit-in movement where we will visit the International Civil Rights Center & Museum. We will then spend the evening in Greenville, South Carolina.

Day 3/March 11th: From Greenville, we go next to Atlanta and to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. We will stop for lunch at the Atlanta institution, the Varsity.  In the afternoon, we will meet with Juanita Abernathy, the widow of Rev. Ralph Abernathy, who was one of Dr. King’s closest advisors. She will also discuss the important and crucial role that women in the civil rights movement played.

MuralDay 4/March 12th: We arrive in the morning in Albany, Georgia and visit the Albany Civil Rights Institute. There we will meet Ms. Rutha Mae Harris, one of the former members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s singing group the Freedom Singers and then as one of the members of Sweet Honey in the Rock. She will discuss the spiritual and emotional importance of the Church and song for the movement.

 In the afternoon, we will visit the Tuskegee Airman National Historic Site and then make our way to Montgomery, Alabama.  We will spend the next two days visiting historical sites in Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham, Alabama.

Book signingDay 5/March 13th: We will begin our tour of Montgomery with a visit to the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization “committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.”

As we make our way to Selma, we will visit the Lowndes County Interpretive Center.  In Selma, we will take a walking tour with Ms. Joanne Bland, who as a child marched on “Bloody Sunday,” where voting rights activists were brutally beaten crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We will then visit the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute before returning in the evening to Montgomery.  

Day 6/March 14th: We will visit the Alabama State Capitol Building before making our way to the Civil Rights Memorial & Visitors Center at the Southern Poverty Law Center. We will then visit the Freedom Rider Museum and Rosa Parks Museum.

Selma monumentIn the afternoon, we depart for Birmingham, Alabama and visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. In the evening, we will be joined by Ms. Carolyn McKinstry and Ms. Lisa McNair, who will discuss the devastating impact the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church had on their community.

Day 7/March 15th: We will leave Montgomery and begin our return north by visiting Nashville, Tennessee. There we will meet with Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton, who will discuss his experiences as a Freedom Rider when he was a young man. We will spend the evening in Cincinnati, Ohio

Day 8/March 16th: We will visit the National Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati and then continue our return north. We will spend the evening in Niagara Falls, New York.

Day 9/March 17th: We will finish our trip and return to North Adams in the early evening.


FACULTY LEADER: Dr. Ely Janis, Associate Professor of History. Professor Janis has spent the past nine years teaching at MCLA.  In 2014, he and his colleague Dr. Frances Jones-Sneed took students on a similar trip through the American South. Click here for more information on that travel course.



"I get the opportunity [because of the trip] to be in the Movement--meet the people and see the places in Greensboro that are part of our history--not just be a passive reader of history."

                                                                 Samantha St. Pierre, Class of 2014

"Singing with Rutha Harris was the most soulful and uplifting experience. Ms. Harris reminded me how powerful music can be and how passion can move a nation."

                                                                 Samantha Beaton, Class of 2017

"It was surreal riding around the poorer parts of Selma, Alabama. You can vividly see the aftermath of slavery and how it affected [and continues to affect] African American people and their communities."

                                                                  Rashard Taylor, Class of 2014

"On this trip we learned that it only take's one person's courage and conviction to initiate change, but that it also takes strength, determination, spirituality, and a commitment to nonviolence to accomplish [that change]. We must never forget the sacrifices made by those that came before us.

                                                                  Kelle Hostetter, Class of 2014

                                                                  Melissa Gelpi, Class of 2015


For more information, please contact:
Dr. Ely Janis
Department of History, Political Science and Public Policy
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
375 Church Street
North Adams, MA 01247
Phone: 413-662-5493

Faculty page