Ms. Sarah Robinson and her AP US History class of juniors journeyed to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts on April 3rd. This field trip was chosen because the students are currently studying the 1950s and 1960s, and the Frist currently has 2 applicable exhibits: “Slavery, The Prison Complex: Photographs by Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick” and “We Shall Overcome: Civil Rights and the Nashville Press, 1957-1968”.
The exhibit about the Prison Complex showed a collection of pictures of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. The majority of the inmates were African Americans.
The Thirteenth Amendment, which freed slaves in the United States, reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This wording made it possible for slavery to continue legally, just so long as it only occurred in prison. This exhibit brought this practice to life and showed the students how recently slavery was still practiced in America.
“I always think it’s interesting to see how recent it actually was because I just think ‘yeah that’s part of history; it doesn’t legally happen,'” said Abby Shivers about how the 13th Amendment is still worded to allow slavery.
The Civil Rights exhibit also left an impression on the students. It brought history to life, as the students saw the city they are so familiar with deal with segregation in the 1960s.
“They expelled students from college for participating in a peaceful protest. They were just sitting there protesting peacefully, and someone else decided it was wrong,” said Joseph Dyer.
One of the pictures showed two black men, James Bevel and John Lewis, at a Krystals who refused to leave and peacefully protested the segregated dining. The manager turned on a fumigating machine to end their sit-in. Instead of leaving, the men stayed inside for half an hour while the restaurant filled with nontoxic insect spray.
When the students discussed their field trip in class on April 4th, Mrs. Robinson pointed out that John Lewis is still an active protester. He may be 78 years old, but he still led the crowd at Atlanta’s recent March for Our Lives protest.
This field trip was interesting to the students and left them thinking not just about the progress of the Civil Rights movement that they have studies in class, but also the progress that is left to be made.