2016 USA Senior History Trip

During the September holidays Mr Burnard and Mrs Hazlewood from the History Department lead a group of 15 learners and two parents on a two week trip to the United States.  The purpose of the trip was to visit key locations where the Black Civil Rights movement during the 1950’s and 60’s took place. Learners get to study the Black Civil Rights topic at Year 11 and so were very excited about the opportunity to visit famous locations such as Montgomery, where Rosa Parks sparked the 1955 bus boycott; Birmingham, where Martin Luther King challenged the racist city official Bull Connor in 1963; Selma, where the march to the state capitol Montgomery to fight for voting rights began in 1965; Memphis, where Dr King was assassinated in 1968 and Little Rock, where the Little Rock Nine challenged school segregation at Central High School in 1957. In each of these places we learned more about these momentous events through our visits to outstanding museums and meeting with local guides.  An example of this was our visit to Dr King’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church which he pastored from 1954 to 1960. Wanda, our guide at the church, was inspirational and made a powerful impression on our group with her insights, exuberance and heart-warming friendliness.
Our time in these Southern states was marked by beautiful weather – blue skies every day and clear, 30c heat. We enjoyed Southern style hospitality with generously sized meals – fried chicken was a staple and also had a great day shopping at Riverchase Mall in Birmingham, a two level version of Albany Westfield. While visiting Memphis we couldn’t possibly miss out on visiting Elvis’ Graceland mansion of course! It was a time capsule of crazy 1970s décor such as shag pile carpeted floor, walls and ceiling and a jungle-themed lounge complete with waterfall and stuffed animals. Elvis’ basement media room had mirrors on walls and the ceiling and three large televisions side by side so he could simultaneously watch the news from the major networks.
Our trip began in New York City and was a wonderful place to start. Two days was never going to be long enough, but we gave it our best shot visiting as many of the iconic locations as possible. Highlights would have to be our glorious day on the harbour seeing the Statue of Liberty and learning about migrant stories at the Ellis Island Immigration Centre. The group also enjoyed walking the Brooklyn Bridge and seeing the New York cityscape at night from the Empire State Building.
Saying goodbye to New York, meant taking a train journey to the Capitol. For many in the group, Washington DC was their personal favourite, with its wide streets, stately buildings and impressive monuments. Our civil rights focus began in earnest with a visit to the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King delivered his famous ‘I have a dream speech’ in front of 200,000 protestors in 1963. Other notable highlights included a walk to the White House and a guided tour of Capitol Hill. We were all captivated by the magnificent architecture of the US political buildings, complete with statues of great leaders and huge pieces of artwork capturing moments in their history. Our visit to the splendid Library of Congress, just like a National Treasure film set with its shelves full of leather bound books, left us spellbound. Our day was wrapped up with a brief visit to the Smithsonian Aerospace Museum and a sobering and rather harrowing walk through the United States Holocaust Memorial Centre – we study the Holocaust at Year 12, so it was very meaningful for our learners.
From Washington DC we travelled by coach into the Deep South, crossing state lines from North Carolina into South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and finally to Arkansas. One heck of a road trip!  The final part of our journey, at the end of two weeks of travel, was a day at Disneyland on a gorgeous blue-skied day. For 12 hours, it was the ‘happiest place on earth’! We arrived back in Auckland Airport a mere 36 hours before the beginning of term 3, tired but much the richer for an array of life changing experiences and an undertaking we are keen to repeat in 2018.
Greg Burnard
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