An important component of the Mississippi Local Culture course is for students to take a history tour of their community, guided by an elder who has personal connections to the various institutions and/or who played a role in local history.
In McComb, the tour typically includes stops at the homes and businesses of organizers and activists during the Civil Rights Movement, the building where the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) conducted organizing sessions, churches that were bombed by the Ku Klux Klan, the Black History Gallery, local schools that played a role in the history, and City Hall.
McComb teacher Ms. Vickie Malone prepared the spring of 2012 high school Local Culture students for the the tour with research on individual Freedom Riders in preparation for the classroom visit, background on voting rights organizers Herbert Lee and Louis Allen, readings (including the memoir Hometown by Mac Gordon and essays from McComb expatriate Carla Hefner Carlisle), a review of the Sovereignty Commission records, and mini-lectures and website review on the history of the neighboring town of Summit, founded more than 20 years before McComb by a Jewish community.
Tazwell Bowsky, a veteran of the Burglund Walkout and a SNCC activist, led the tour and included additional stops of interest. These included the Jewish Cemetery, the Burglund Cemetery, the Craft Funeral Home, the jail at City Hall, and the Martin Luther King community center. He also discussed his contemporary role as an elected member of the county board of supervisors.
Following the trip, many of the students’ comments reflected a new found respect for their hometown:
“Since going on the field trip around McComb, I now feel differently about the city.”
“We are the most historic place in the world. We have so much history, from civil rights workers to the other events.”
“McComb really has some history!”
They were also motivated to preserve that history, both by getting involved in clean-up efforts of the cemeteries they visited and encouraging City Hall to make Ms. Quinn’s home a historic landmark. One student has already raised these suggestions to the Mayor’s Youth Council, pointing out that if the Southwest Mississippi Community College has adopted a highway, surely the high school seniors could adopt and clean up the cemeteries.
The field experience is clearly a good opportunity to deepen students’ study of the history of the Civil Rights Movement and inspire them to take action today.