Students give presentations detailing their experience on the study away trip.

Study away trip immerses students in Civil Rights Movement

Students in Dr. John Hayes’ study away class spent the summer learning about civil rights in the deep south through visits to key sites from the movement.

They visited the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, the site of a racially motivated bombing in the 1960s, the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, the location of “Bloody Sunday” and part of the route of the Selma to Montgomery march and Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, a site of forced desegregation following the Supreme Court ruling in “Brown v. Board.”

“This study away trip gave me the opportunity to literally walk the path of courageous activists,” said Montrel Wingate, senior history major.

Students also traveled to public history venues, such as the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

This study away trip provided students with an opportunity to better understand the context and events of the Civil Rights Movement.

“The Civil Rights Movement was a seminal movement in American History,” said Hayes, associate professor in the Department of History, Anthropology and Philosophy in the Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. “Immersion in the movement, in some key sites where it took place, offers an unusually revealing window into the deep dynamics of our society.”

Sheldonia Bessent, senior English major, echoed that sentiment.

“The trip exposed us to the real truth about the dehumanization of African Americans and how the nonviolent movement for civil rights originated in the Deep South,” she said.

Students returned home from their trip feeling both inspired and troubled but curious to learn more.

“It was a beautiful experience of inner metamorphosis from a state of social complacency to blossoming into a butterfly ready to be the change I wish to see in the world,” said Taylor Powell, senior psychology major.

Throughout the trip, Hayes’ students journaled, took photographs and engaged in discussions about what they were seeing and experiencing. After returning home, they presented their experience in the form of slide shows, acting and spoken word poetry. Visit the study abroad website to learn more about study abroad or to apply for a study abroad trip.

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Brennan Meagher

Brennan Meagher is a communications coordinator at Augusta University. Contact her at 706-446-4806 or

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Written by Brennan Meagher

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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Students smiling for a photo in front of the James Brown statue downtown.