Historians discuss Civil Rights Movement education

Civil Rights Movement education discussion among highlights of Diversity Week

Published: February 1, 2012.

(left to right) Mary Jones-Fitts, descendant
of the enslaved of Faunsdale, AL; Donna Sack
and Dennis Cremin, Tara White, University
of Southern Alabama

Place-based learning transforms Civil Rights Movement education said historians during a recent presentation at Lewis University. Dr. Dennis Cremin, associate professor and director of the Lewis University History Center, and Donna Sack, executive director of the Illinois Association of Museums, presented “Place-Based Learning: Teaching the Civil Rights Movement” on Jan. 26 at the University’s main campus in Romeoville as part of Diversity Week.

A four-year $979,000 Teaching American History Grant from the U.S. Department of Education opened their eyes to a better understanding of place-based learning. For the last two years, the two historians were among 60 from the fields of history, museums and K-12 educators from the suburban Chicago area that traveled to historic sites, such as Washington, D.C, Memphis, Tenn., Selma, Ala., Montgomery, Ala., and Birmingham, Ala.

The experience of being in the actual place that history occurred enhances the ability to understand the event that transpired, added Dr. Cremin. He said, “It was so powerful to visit the sites where major events happened. I’ll never forget seeing the slave cabin on the Faunsdale Plantation in Alabama.” He continued, “We had the ability to meet some of the people who marched to Montgomery and others who are carrying on the work of Civil Rights in the United States today.”

The sites are being preserved and the stories are being shared through the work of many dedicated historians. Sack added, “I realized how important local historical societies and museums are in telling their part of the story that then connects to the national narrative.”

Lewis University is a Catholic university offering distinctive undergraduate and graduate programs to nearly 6,500 traditional and adult students. Lewis offers multiple campus locations, online degree programs, and a variety of formats that provide accessibility and convenience to a growing student population. Sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis prepares intellectually engaged, ethically grounded, globally aware, and socially responsible graduates. The ninth largest private not-for-profit university in Illinois, Lewis has been nationally recognized by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report.

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