Mercer University to Lead Exploration Tour of the South’s Civil Rights History

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., is one of the stops on the exploration of the South’s civil rights history. (Wikimedia Commons photo)
Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., is one of the stops on the exploration of the South’s civil rights history. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

A Mercer University-led tour of the American South will expose participants to some of the culture, history, politics, architecture, food, religion and key locations that informed and drove the nation’s civil rights movement.

In other words, one of the tour’s leaders says, it’s a pilgrimage of sorts.

“If the tour is successful, part of it will be that people think there’s something valuable about the South as place,” said Doug Thompson, associate professor of Southern studies with an expertise on Southern religious history and the civil rights era. “We will be connecting the dots between the places we are going — and that is something you do on pilgrimage.”

The six-day bus tour begins May 18 in Atlanta before venturing to Montgomery, Ala., New Orleans, Memphis, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala. Stops include the Statehouse and Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, plantations, museums, the home of William Faulkner in Oxford, Miss., Elvis Presley’s birthplace in Tupelo, Miss. and the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham.

The group will also visit some of the South’s most iconic dining locations.

Significant civil rights locations not visited, like Tuskegee and Mobile, Ala., will be still be discussed, Thompson said.

“We can talk about some things as we go past,” he said.

One of those discussions will be about the influence the Mississippi Delta played in helping slave spirituals inspire the development of what became blues and jazz, he said.

The South’s cotton culture, huge before Civil War and even bigger after it, will be repeatedly touched on during the tour because it planted some of the seeds for what would become the struggle for economic and racial equality.

“It’s going to create all kinds of reasons for things like sharecropping and tenant farmers,” Thompson said. “Our tour will follow that development from the antebellum period on up through the modern civil rights era.”

For his portion of the tour, Thompson said he will also lead discussions on the religion of the South, namely how Roman Catholicism and Protestantism were used both to support and oppose slavery and later civil rights.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Associated Baptist Press
Jeff Brumley

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