In 1999 a California high school teacher led 100 students, parents and teachers on a ten day educational trip to historical civil rights sites to learn the lessons of the movement through books, documentaries, onsite experiences and speaking to civil rights veterans. The trip was so successful that Jeff Steinberg took a leave of absence from his tenured teaching position at his San Bruno High School to found Sojourn to the Past–an innovative, enlightening program that has inspired 850 minds in its three years of existence.
Each journey begins in Washington, D.C. with an overview of the civil rights movement, trips to the memorials, and discussions with living leaders. About eighty “Sojourners” continue on a civil rights journey, which takes them through Altanta, Tuskegee, Ala., Montgomery, Ala., Selma, Ala., Birmingham, Ala., Jackson, Miss., Little Rock, Ark. and ends in Memphis, Tenn.. At each stop civil rights veterans and heroes speak with students and engage them in provocative discussions at the very location where a historic moment took place.
Reverend Billy Kyles takes Sojourners to the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and Martin Luther King III speaks about carrying on his father’s message. The Sojourners hear about Congressman John Lewis’s (D-GA) beating by state troopers at a voting rights march and talk to Minnijean Brown-Trickey and Elizabeth Eckford about being the first African-Americans to attend a school in Little Rock.
According to the Web site, Sojourn’s purpose was to “celebrate diversity; promote cross-cultural understanding by teaching civil rights history, the lessons of tolerance, nonviolence, compassion, forgiveness, faith, hope and civic responsibility.”
In the fall of 2002, Sojourn is offering a trip for adults only. The adult Sojourners will take the exact journey the students have for the last three years, but the participation fee will be used to fund future trips for low-income students.