From December 1-10, The AmeriCenter and the Tuck School of Business partnered to host a faculty-led program in Washington D.C. and Montgomery Alabama. Titled Freedom Riders 2021: Unpacking Systemic Racism in America and Its Impact for Leadership, the program focused on the historical context of current conversations around racial justice in America and the ways in which students, as future business leaders, can devise a more empathetic vision for a diverse and inclusive society. During the 10 day program led by Dr. Ella Bell Smith, Professor of Business Administration, and Dr. Adam M. Kleinbaum, Associate Professor of Business Administration, the group met with federal, state, and local officials as well as business and non-profit leaders who are making a difference in areas such as voting rights and economic inclusion.
Below are some of the program highlights while students visited Washington, D.C. and Montgomery, Alabama:
Museum Visits: Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Museum of African American History & Culture, The Legacy Museum & The National Memorial for Peace and Justice
On December 3rd, the group visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and learned about the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its allies and collaborators. A particular focus of this visit and subsequent student reflections on the subject was paid to the path that led to the genocide and how current-day mass atrocities follow the same vile playbook.
On December 4th, the group visited the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, which is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted to exploring, documenting, and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. The visit provided an opportunity for students to connect contemporary notions of racial justice to the richness and diversity of the African American experience.
The capstone visit of the entire program took place on December 8th when the group visited the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration uses interactive media, sculpture, videography, and exhibits to immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of the slave trade, racial terrorism, the Jim Crow South, and the world’s largest prison system. The museum provides compelling visuals and data-rich exhibits to investigate America’s history of racial injustice and its legacy — to draw dynamic connections across generations of Americans impacted by the tragic history of racial inequality. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice tells the story of more than 4,400 African American men, women, and children who were victims of racial terror lynchings between 1877 and 1950 and the millions more who fled the South as refugees from racial terrorism.
Meetings with Congressional, State and Local Officials in Washington, D.C. & Montgomery, AL
Throughout the program, the group had a chance to meet with leaders from all levels of government including key staff to members of Congress, the Alabama Office of the Governor and local education changemakers.
On December 3rd, the group met with Alisa Winchester and Chanel Bankston-Carter from the offices of Senator Tammy Duckworth. The talk focused on key legislative initiatives including those related to education and small business/entrepreneurship. The following day, the group met with Smriti Krishnan, Legislative Assistant from Congresswoman Alma Adams of North Carolina, and included a discussion on the Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Caucus, which Rep. Adams chairs.
On December 6th, the group met with Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) Executive Director Dr. Jim Purcell to learn about their office’s role in devising institutional research and planning as a means to implement policies and programs related to higher education and improving student attainment. In the afternoon, the group explored work-based learning models and apprenticeships with representatives from the University of West Alabama and Alabama A&M University.
The final official visit of the program included an intimate conversation with Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield on December 9th in which he shared an overview of the state’s key economic drivers and its contribution to emerging industries such as aerospace and aviation, automotive and agricultural products.
Visits to Civil Rights Landmarks in Montgomery & Selma, Alabama
On December 7th, the group toured landmarks in Montgomery guided by Ken Mullinax, local historian and Director of Public Information and Media Relations at Alabama State University. The day included visits to the home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Martyr’s Monument, the Capitol Building, Freedom Riders site at the Greyhound Bus Station, and the Site of Rosa Parks bus boarding and arrest. The group concluded the day with a visit to the Old Oakwood Cemetery and placed flowers on the graves of two slaves who died in bondage in Montgomery in the 1850s.
On December 8th, the group traveled by bus to Selma, retracing the steps of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery March and learning about how ‘Bloody Sunday’ became a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. Students visited the Brown Chapel AME Church, met with District Attorney Michael Jackson at the Dallas County Courthouse and walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.