From Slavery to the Civil Rights Movement

Visit iconic yet complicated Southern cities where millions of enslaved people first entered the United States, and where African diaspora culture, instead of being eradicated or homogenized, was heroically preserved by former slaves and thrives today in music, food, religious and artistic traditions.

March 24 – 31, 2024
March 24: New Orleans


Arrive independently to New Orleans and make your way to the The Saint Hotel, French Quarter, Autograph Collection. 

This afternoon New Orleans local Keynin Joiner will lead a comprehensive walking tour to help us gain a deeper understanding of the intrinsic role that the African American community has played in creating New Orleans, structurally, economically, and culturally. The bedrock of New Orleans life, from its jazz to its cuisine, is built on the African American experience, a heritage both proud and tragic.

Begin at Bienville Monument, a commemoration of the founder of the French colony of Louisiana, Pierre Le Moyne d"Iberville, in 1718. People of African ancestry first arrived at New Orleans in 1719, within a year of the establishment of the city, having been forcibly removed from the Senegambia region of West Africa. Enslaved Africans of the colonial era cleared forests, raised crops, and built the city infrastructure.

See the French Quarter through a different lens than most visitors. Instead of disappearing or homogenizing, some aspects of African culture flourished in New Orleans, influencing everything from food to music to religion. One vital places for this cultural continuity was Congo Square, now part of Armstrong Park on the edge of the French Quarter in the Faubourg Treme. Here on Sunday off-days, hundreds of African slaves and laborers congregated to trade goods, play music, dance, and socialize. This space ranks among the most important historical sites in the nation for understanding American music, and the key role that African Americans in New Orleans played in its development and diversification. 

This evening enjoy a welcome dinner at Dooky Chase's Restaurant in the heart of New Orleans. 


March 25: New Orleans


This morning meet with Ruby Bridges, a lifelong activist for racial equality known for being the first black student to attend the previously all-white William Franz Elementary School in 1960. Ruby later wrote about her early experiences living in segregated New Orleans and how they relate to the larger Civil Rights movement, for which she received the Carter G. Woodson Book Award. She has gone on to establish The Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote tolerance and change through education. 

Later visit Whitney Plantation, which has been turned into a museum dedicated to telling the story of slavery. Whitney has a different mission to most of the plantations: to tell visitors the true tragic story of slavery in the United States.

The force behind the first slavery museum in the U.S., which opened in December 2014, is John Cummings, a real estate magnate and retired New Orleans trial lawyer who has spent $8.6 million of his own money redeveloping the 250-acre site dotted with swampland and banana trees. The Whitney Plantation, founded by the Haydel Family of Germany, farmed indigo and later sugar cane by exploiting the labor of more than 350 slaves. The names of those slaves now are engraved on the black granite slabs that are part of the plantation's Wall of Honor. Other memorials list the names of some 107,000 slaves that once toiled in the state of Louisiana.

After lunch return to New Orleans and on to the TEP Center, which holds momentous historical significance as the previous location of the McDonogh 19 Elementary School. On November 14, 1960, three young African American girls - Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, and Gail Etienne - integrated McDonogh 19. The girls were escorted into the building by a team of U.S. Marshalls for their safety, and as they entered the white children poured out in droves, pulled out of school by worried parents. The building was entered into the National Register of Historical Places in 2016. Today the center is committed to anti-racist ideology and strives to be a resource location for the public to discuss and learn about our complex and changing culture.

At the center meet with staff from the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond and participate in an Undoing Racism / Community Organizing workshop, which explores how people are socialized and conditioned to think about race and racism.

Dinner at a local restaurant. 

March 26: Selma


This morning depart New Orleans and head east towards Selma.

Our first stop will be Gee's Bend, a small and isolated rural black community surrounded on three sides by the Alabama River, and home to seven hundred or so inhabitants, mostly descendants of slaves. In 1998 art collector William Arnett, working on a history of African-American folk art came across a photograph of Gee's Bend resident, Annie Mae Young, standing next to a quilt she had made. He was so impressed by its originality that he set out to find it. The women of Gee's Bend were creating quilts, not as pieces of art, but out of necessity to keep warm on cold winter nights. The use of symbols, asymmetry, bright colors, and vertical piecing are techniques that date back to African textile creations of years ago. In 2002 the Houston Museum of Fine Arts held an exhibition of Gee's Bend quilts and firmly put the women of this isolated peninsula carved out by the Alabama River on the world map.

We will meet with quilters from the Gee's Bend Quilter's Collective and enjoy lunch with them and time to talk about their lives. 

Our next stop is in Camden where we will meet with the director and some artists at Black Belt Treasures and Cultural Center.  This is a non-profit organization that serves as a center for over 400 local artists, sculptors, basket weavers, wood workers and quilters who have banded together to showcase their work. 

Continue to Selma, stopping at the Selma Interpretive Center to explore exhibits and a bookstore dedicated to telling the story of the voting rights movement.

Meet with Foot Solider, Jo Ann Bland, who began her civil rights activism in the early 1960s. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activists organized Bland and other children and teenagers in the area to participate in the civil rights movement. In the front lines of the struggle, the young Bland marched on "Bloody Sunday" and "Turn Around Tuesday," and the first leg of the successful March from Selma to Montgomery, witnessing brutal beatings by fellow marchers by police. By the time she was 11 years old Bland had been arrested 13 times. 

Continue on to the historic St. James Hotel, one of the few remaining antebellum river hotels in the southeast and the only surviving hotel in Selma's downtown historic district. The hotel has witnessed much of the dramatic history that has played out in this picturesque southern city. Prior to the Civil War, the hotel was managed by an enslaved man named Benjamin Sterling Turner. After slavery, Turner succeeded in business and in politics and was eventually elected to Congress as the first African-American U.S. Representative from Alabama.

This evening enjoy dinner at the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation, where we have invited some local guests including local chef, Ms. Callie Greer, who founded a non-profit organization called Mother's Against Violence in Selma (MAVIS). 




March 27: Savannah


Continue east today following the route of the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Stop at the roadside marker indicating the spot where Viola Liuzzo, a white activist and mother of five from Detroit, was killed by armed Klansmen. Nearby is the Lowndes Interpretive Center, located midway between Selma and Montgomery in White Hall. 

Continue on to Tuskegee to visit the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, which commemorates the contribution of African American servicemen in World War II. Col Roosevelt Louis will meet us and talk about the history of Motion Field, the site of primary flight training for the pioneering pilots known as Tuskegee Airmen. 

Head to the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site and learn about the work of Booker T. Washington, an early advocate for the education of African Americans in the post-Reconstruction south. Born into slavery, he grew up to become a well-known African -American educator, author, orator, and presidential adviser. In 1881 he became the first president of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. Tour the campus and visit Washington's home, the Oaks. 

Stop at the Tuskegee History Center,  where we meet museum director Debra Gray and civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who brought a class-action lawsuit on behalf of unwitting study participants in the tragic Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. This secret experiment conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service sought to study the progression of the deadly venereal disease without providing treatment and without being honest about the goals of the study. Even after penicillin was discovered and used as a treatment for the disease, the men in the Tuskegee study were not offered the antibiotic.

Continue on just under 5 hours to Savannah and the Courtyard Downtown Hotel

Dinner this evening is on your own. 


March 28: Savannah


After breakfast head to the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, a three-story collection of informative historical photos, documentaries and interactive exhibits documenting the city's Jim Crow era and civil rights movement.

After lunch the group will be met by the wonderful Vaughnette Goode-Walker, executive director of the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum and a poet, teacher and former broadcast journalist. Her historical walking tour of downtown paints a vivid picture of what antebellum Savannah was like for the people enslaved in its mansions or sold in its markets - the kind of history most visitors to Savannah miss. With storytelling at its center, the tour is an unhurried stroll through Savannah's old lanes and squares, led by an expert historian focusing on the history of urban slavery, the slave trade, and the cotton trade in Savannah. These themes are essential to one's understanding of Savannah's complex history. 

Stop at the mossy Johnson Square, which used to border a pen where enslaved people were held as they waited sale. Savannah was the site of one of the largest slave sales in American history; an 1859 auction known today as the "Weeping Time" involved the sale of more than 400 slaves from a plantation on Georgia's coast.

Tonight enjoy dinner at leisure.

March 29: Charleston


Depart for Charleston making some stops along the way to learn more about the Gullah Geechee people. The Gullah Geechee are descendants of Africans who were enslaved on the rice, indigo and cotton plantations of the lower Atlantic coast. Due to the fact that they were enslaved upon isolated coastal plantations and sea and barrier islands, they were uniquely able to retain many of the indigenous African traditions, which are reflected in their modern food, art, and spirituality. Additionally, they created the language of Gullah, a creole language spoken nowhere else in the world. 

Our first stop, after an hour, will be at St. Helena Island, a hub in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. From 1840 to the late 1860s, scores of ships carrying approximately 27,000 slaves were captured and brought to the island. Notably, the island is also a part of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, a 12,000 square mile federal National Heritage area comprised of many historically and culturally significant places to the Gullah Geechee people.

Visit Penn Center, the first southern school for formerly enslaved West Africans. This historic and cultural institution is a National Historic Landmark District and comprises two of the four sites in the Reconstruction Era National Park. After the school closed in 1948, Penn became the first African American site in South Carolina whose primary purpose was to safeguard the heritage of the Gullah Geechee community. Later, in the 1960s, Penn Center took up the mantle of social justice, ushering in the Civil Rights Movement and serving as the only location in South Carolina during the Civil Right Movement where interracial groups could have safe sanctuary in an era of mandated segregation. 

Continue on to the Legacy Art Gallery where we will meet artist Lisa Rivers. Recognizable by bold colors and vivid strokes, Lisa's works portray stories of Gullah culture. Legacy Art is the first black woman-owned art gallery of its kind on Bay Street in downtown Beaufort. 

Enjoy lunch at the Gullah Grub restaurant. This eatery is unique in that they follow the rules of Gullah traditions when it comes to preparing food. Eat only foods in season, to help protect the earth and maintain balance. Secondly, eat locally by supporting local farmers and consuming GMO-free produce. Owner Bill Green and his family seek to serve delicious seafood and BBQ while educating their patrons on the truth about Africa, the slave trade, and contributions African American people have made to the creation of America.

Before arriving in Charleston, stop at the McLeod Plantation Historic Site on James Island, SC. This 37-acre Gullah Geechee heritage site pats tribute to the enslaved Africans who lived on the plantation grounds from the 1800s on. After years of careful research and restoration, McLeod Plantation Historic Site is a living tribute to the men and women and their descendants that persevered in their efforts to achieve freedom, equality and justice. 

Check-in to the Courtyard Charleston Historic District.

Dinner this evening is at leisure.


March 30: Charleston


Begin the day at the newly opened International African American Museum. The museum tells the story of the Middle Passage, the journey that began in Africa with the capture of millions of Africans who were forced to crosse the Atlantic to Gladsden's Wharf in Charleston, S.C., the place in which an estimated 45% of enslaved Africans entered the U.S. The museum is located on the site of that former wharf, overlooking Charleston Harbor, where many enslaved Africans first entered the United States.

After lunch depart on a walking tour with the legendary Godfrey KHill to examine Gullah Geechee culture in Charleston. Godfrey, a full-blooded Barbenyah Indigo Yeshi Gullah Geechee has a unique perspective of the African Diaspora due to his heritage and his extensive travel through Africa. Godfrey is deeply connected and rooted in his heritage and during the walking tour learn more about his advocacy for the preservation of the Indigenous Indigo, Native American and Gullah Geechee cultures. 

Join fellow travelers for a farewell dinner this evening.


March 31: Depart


Independent transfers to the airport for flights home. 

Trip Price

Per person double occupancy: $5,500

Single supplement: $1,640


  • Accommodation as listed in the itinerary based on double occupancy
  • Breakfast daily
  • Meals as listed in the program, including soft drink / iced-tea
  • Water on the bus (travelers are encouraged to bring water bottles to refill)
  • Sightseeing and excursions as listed with all entrance fees
  • All speakers as listed in the program (or substitutes)
  • Transportation in a deluxe motor-coach with air-conditioning
  • Services of a tour manager and subject expert
  • All gratuities
  • Welcome and farewell receptions

Not Included

  • Airfare to New Orleans and from Charleston
  • Luggage charges
  • Drinks excluding at welcome and farewell receptions
  • Personal insurance for health, baggage, and trip cancellation
  • Items of a purely personal nature
  • Any items not listed as included

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