The biennial Civil Rights Seminar and Tour began in 2013 as a counterpart to the College’s Appalachian Tour. The former revisits the work of civil rights activists, many of whom had connections to Berea College. The tour explores how the work of Berea College faculty and staff connects to the broader world and provides context to the lives of the students the College serves.
“The tour was a great opportunity for faculty staff to mix and mingle from different backgrounds and to share stories,” said Collis Robinson ’13, associate dean of Student Life. “Sometimes we get busy doing our work, and we think people know, and they don’t. That was a wakeup call for me—we should be willing to share our stories more, so others really begin to see that these things are real. The [issues with] race relations of the country have not gone away.”
This power-packed, weeklong experience is not just a physical journey from Kentucky to South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee, but a spiritual journey of study, meditation and life-changing discoveries. Participants visit historically significant locations like the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. and the former home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Participants also visit brand new museums and monuments, like the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Ala. that takes visitors on a journey from the enslavement to mass incarceration of Blacks in America. Its counterpart—the Memorial for Peace and Justice—displays 800 swinging stones etched with the names of thousands of racial terror lynching victims in the United States and the counties and states where this terrorism took place.
“I was constantly reminded that it could have been me,” Robinson said about the Legacy Museum’s focus on mass incarceration. “I’m one of four (boys) and it reminds me that it also could be my brothers. And now that I have a son, I think that it could be my son. Each day that I wake up and walk through a door, I have to think, ‘You’re a minority.’ So I have to work extra hard. I don’t want to look suspicious; I don’t want to look like I’m going to do anything. Just because of who I am, that already comes with it.”