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WAIT LIST ONLY: Civil Rights Immersion- We Shall Overcome

WAIT LIST ONLY: Civil Rights Immersion- We Shall Overcome


Travel And Learn With The League

Civil Rights Immersion – The Route of the Civil Rights Campaign

Dates: November 8 through 13, 2018

Follow the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on this unique LWVFL trip and join Professor Emeritus Robert Bickel and three veterans of the Civil Rights Movement on an unforgettable journey to Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma.

As we begin our trip into Civil Rights Movement history, our deluxe charter bus will allow us to view original news footage of the events that took place at the sites we will visit.  During our stay at our central Montgomery hotel, we will begin our journey by standing in a former slave pen where slaves were stockaded during the height of the slave trade in 1847-1860. We will then personally see and visit historic sites and museums, and personally discuss with Movement veterans, the cultural, political and legal reality and legacy of  “Jim Crow” segregation, from 1896 to 1954, and many of the major sites of the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 to 1965 in Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma — leading to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and The Voting Rights Act of 1965.  NEWLY ADDED will be a visit to the EJI National Memorial for Peace and Justice remembering the thousands of victims of lynchings. Read more about the new museum here.


We depart on Thursday, November 8th at the Gibbs Campus of St. Petersburg College, 66th Street North & 5th Avenue North, with secure, free parking for travelers.  Please arrive in time to load luggage and leave by 12 pm.  We will have a boxed lunch available upon boarding, so that folks can eat as we begin the drive and we can show the first film.  We will return in the late afternoon on Tuesday, November 13th.

Bus stop in Tallahassee for brief stretch/walk break and traveler pick up.  Possible bus stops may be added for pick up if they are en route from St. Pete, FL to Montgomery, AL.

Your registration fee includes: Hotel accommodations, breakfast at the hotel, one special group lunch, one special group dinner, all site and museum entrance fees, and round-trip deluxe charter transportation from St. Petersburg to Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham on our well-appointed tour bus, which includes reclining seats with footrests, on-board lavatory, DVD and a PA system for our educational videos and commentaries throughout driving segments, spacious luggage storage bays, overhead storage for carry-on items, 110V Outlets & Wi-Fi.

Hampton Inn & Suites Montgomery, AL Downtown

Accommodations: Your hotel reservations will be pre-arranged for you.

Early registration rate before September 1:

$1,399 per person double occupancy

$1,599 single occupancy

After September 1, rates increase:

$1,499 per person double occupancy

$1,699 single occupancy


Jim Letherer, was an American civil rights activist. He walked on crutches the entire 54 miles of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights.

Join the League of Women Voters for this transformative travel experience. No membership required, though you may become a member here.  Reservations cancelled with more than a 30 day notice can be refunded less a $100 administrative fee.  Reservations cancelled with less than a 30 day notice will be refunded at 50% cost of the trip.  Reservations can be transferred to a another traveler.


Questions? Ccontact your trip hosts, Marty and Maura Sullivan.


A young civil rights activist, with white face paint reading ‘Vote’ cross his forehead, takes part in the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights Marches.




Itinerary:  During our drive time to Montgomery, our bus will become a “rolling classroom” as we review the issues of citizenship (as defined by the case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896) and political equality, including party membership (the subject of the case of Smith v. Allwright in 1944).  These issues brought about the watershed known as The Civil Rights Movement – as it refers to the events from 1954-1965. Our critical studies will be facilitated by documentary film that includes original news footage and narration of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the beginning of Dr. King’s leadership; the origins of peaceful mass protest – exemplified by the 1960 “sit-ins” and the 1961 Freedom Rides. Small group discussion of the documentaries will be encouraged and both Mr. Patton and Professor Bickel will be available to facilitate our initial reactions. Arriving in Montgomery, we will check in at our Hotel enjoy a restful night before we take our first personal steps on our historical journey.



Beginning on day two, and each day thereafter, we will have breakfast on our own, provided by the hotel, and each of us will board our Charter bus, with our individual daily personal supplies, in time to depart promptly at 9:00 AM!


Our detailed itinerary, narrated all along the way by Mr. Paton, Mr. Williams, and Professor Bickel, will take us to more than two dozen historical sites, museums, and historic places directly related to the Movement and its legacy, including:


(1) The “King Cotton” slave-dependent plantations, exhibits housed in former slave stockades, and other exhibits presented by the Equal Justice Institute that reveal the legacy of slavery, lynching and segregation;


(2) The many historic sites throughout Montgomery that reveal all of the facets of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, with a capstone visit of the Rosa Parks Museum at the end of our day;

(3) The Southern Poverty Law Center and National Civil Rights Memorial (where we can personally enter our names on the Wall of Tolerance, designed by the acclaimed artist Maya Lin, who also designed the Vietnam Wall);


(4) The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Museum, revealing the violent white cultural and political uniqueness of Birmingham as a watershed in white southern resistance and the influence of both the political process and hate groups;


(5) the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where a Klan planted bomb killed four teenage girls as they prepared for children’s services;


(6) Kelly Ingram Park, the historic ground where adults and children endured the politically corrupt use of attack dogs and fire hoses in retaliation for First Amendment protests of segregation [During drive time to Birmingham, we will view original narrated news footage of the Birmingham Movement]; and


(7) A visit to Selma, the symbolic city of the right to vote as we know it. We will stand where a teacher-led voter registration effort was met by a police blockade of the voting registrar’s offices and then meet at the base of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where citizens who attempted to peacefully begin a march to the State Capitol in Montgomery were met by mounted state and local law enforcement officers who trampled, beat and teargassed them.  Your capstone experience as a group dedicated to voting rights, will be to walk across the Pettus Bridge, retracing the exact steps, on the exact ground, where those marchers were finally able to begin a 52 mile march that led to the enactment of The 1965 Voting Rights Act.


Our learning periods will be from 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM, leaving evenings free for dinner and other social time together.  We plan to have one special dinner with Montgomery Movement veterans and their families.


On our final day, we will return to St. Petersburg, and with the help of an acclaimed documentary on the subject of the oppression of women workers, we will discuss the relationship between the right to vote, in itself, and the substantive initiatives that involve us in the political process on an ongoing basis.


Facilitator Bio’s:

Professor Emeritus Robert Bickel, Stetson University: Professor Bickel’s interest in the Civil Rights Movement began in college in 1960, and included the involvement of students in protests against the racial segregation of higher education, and the summary retaliation against students for their participation in Civil Rights Movement activities. Professor Bickel earned his J.D. Degree, with highest honors, from Florida State University in 1968, and then entered the Justice Department’s Honors Program. In 1975, he completed the summer Institute for Educational Management program at Harvard University. He has taught Constitutional Law and Civil Rights History, The First Amendment, Employment Discrimination Law, Torts and Advanced Torts for more than 35 years, and is an elected member of the American Law Institute and a recipient of the American Bar Association’s National Tweed Award for Continuing Education.  His latest articles and film projects are on the subject of the history of the American civil rights movement, and the judicial failure to recognize the duty of states to remedy the present effects of historical racial discrimination.

Professor Bickel is currently collaborating with the Newseum Institute in Washington DC to produce a series of online readings and documentary film interviews exploring the relationship between the appellate cases that challenged segregation and the Direct- Action Campaign for civil rights, including Voting Rights.


Rip Patton (Group discussion facilitator and mentor): Rip Patton was a 21-year-old music major at Tennessee State University when he joined the Nashville Movement, participating in the first “Lawson Workshops” on non-violent mass protest, the 1960 Nashville sit-ins.  He joined the Freedom Rides in 1961 and was in the first group to make it from Montgomery to Jackson, Mississippi, where his group was arrested for entering a “white only” Greyhound Bus Station waiting room.  His group also included John Lewis. After sham trials in local courts, the group was ultimately sent to Parchman Penitentiary for this simple act of peaceful protest, in violation of the United States Supreme Court’s decision and rationale in the case of Boynton v. Virginia. Mr. Patton was an active member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He knew Dr. King, Rev. Kelly Miller Smith, James Lawson, Fred Shuttlesworth and C.T. Vivian, and recalls the full range of stories that define the Civil Rights Movement. He will accompany us throughout the travel course to interact with participants individually and collectively.


Randall Williams: New South, Inc. is an Alabama-based book publishing company owned by partners Randall Williams and Suzanne La Rosa, and specializing in regional books of national interest.   The Louisville Courier-Journal observes that New South is a risk-taking, socially conscious publisher.  Randall Williams knew every central figure in the Montgomery Movement. He is an expert on American History from slavery to the Movement events in Montgomery between 1955 and 1965, and will help us examine how the Montgomery Movement revealed every aspect of the legacy of slavery, including southern state resistance to racial equality in direct violation of the First, Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the federal Constitution.


Janice Kelsey:  Janice Kelsey was introduced to her first “mass meeting” in the Birmingham Movement in 1963, and remembers personally being in the audience and hearing Martin Luther King, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Rev. Ralph Abernathy as they described the Birmingham part of the direct action campaign.  She also remembers Rev. James Bevel speaking directly to the high school students, including herself, about the inequitable distribution of outdated books and educational equipment for students at Ullman high school, and other black schools, as compared with the new books and equipment available to students at white high schools in the City.  She will share with us the self-actualizing moment of her decision to participate in the workshops on nonviolence and join the protests of segregation, and why the presence of children was controversial but essential to the Movement’s success.  She has special memories of May 2, 1963 – the first mass march in the “children’s campaign.”  She remembers that, from her jail cell, she could see the now well-documented use of fire hoses and attack dogs (under the direction of police commissioner “Bull” Connor).  Janice Kelsey went on to a distinguished 33-year career in education, as an acclaimed middle school and high school science teacher and administrator in the Birmingham School System.



All that we do to secure the right to vote, and to enable it, by providing leadership on the issues that affect the common good, rests within that part of The First Amendment that guarantees the right of the people to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. For 13 years a young man accepted that premise at the age of 26 and gave himself to a cause that ended in his death, at age 39, by a white assassin. In December, 1964, when his leadership had helped to bring about America’s most significant Civil Rights Act, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

His opening remarks on that occasion began with words that perfectly captured the civil rights struggle: “I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice. I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered. And only yesterday more than 40 houses of worship in the State of Mississippi alone were bombed or burned because they offered a sanctuary to those who would not accept segregation. I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize. After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.”

We take this journey into this history – our history – in November 2018, because, in securing and advancing the true meaning of the Fifteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act – and working to sustain and advance social and economic issues with reasoned compromise and for the common good – we seek to visit the places where our predecessors stood their ground in an era when that struggle awakened America to democracy’s dependence upon our conscience as a people.

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