Blog  American South: Journeying Through the South

American South: Journeying Through the South

By Ben Tolson, Olivia Panakso, Natalie Barrocas, Maddie Sherman, and Annabel Ross, Mitzvah Corps American South 2018 Participants

Which people that you’ve met has had the most impact on your trip so far?

-The people that have been most impactful on my trip so far have be J’van and Sean from Youth Rebuilding New Orleans and our tour guide from Whitney Plantation. I enjoyed the YRNO people because they showed me what young people can do in a setting where help is needed and I liked our Whitney Plantation guide because she informed us about the importance of civil rights education.

-The most impactful person I have met on this trip would be Mrs. Betty from the abortion clinic. Despite all of the attention and negative comments she gets from working at the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, she still continues to fight for women’s reproductive rights and that is very important to me as a woman and as someone who believes that a woman’s body should be her own. She showed our group what it takes to be resilient in the Deep South.

-I most enjoyed meeting Miss Betty at Pink House because the work that she does is empowering and brave.

-Mindy at Medgar Evers house, because I was able to learn the whole story about how Medgar Evers was killed.


What museum have you found the most informative or surprising?

-The WWII Museum was the most informative because it was the coolest and I had the most fun in it. I specifically liked all the equipment and memorabilia.

-The Lower Ninth Ward Museum about Hurricane Katrina was definitely the most informative for me. There were a lot of things I had no idea that went on with Hurricane Katrina, especially after. One thing that stood out to me was this picture of a boy with a trash bag and it was labeled “looting” while there was a picture of a white couple with the trash bag labeled as “finding” in a newspaper article. It really shows that people of color were treated so horribly during Hurricane Katrina and the effects of that were very saddening to know that the city and the government didn’t really do a lot to help out that population.

-The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. It was extremely well done and hands on.

-My biggest take away from the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum was simply seeing how easily it was for white people to get away with murder. There were many plaques with the names of people who were lynched just for being born black.

-I was surprised about the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum because I didn’t know about ancient Mississippi tribes.

-I enjoyed the World War II museum much more than I thought I would. The most moving part of it to me was seeing the personal items that soldiers carried, whether that be personal photographs of their families or Bibles or letters that they were planning to send. I also was moved by the women that did not fight in the war but had loved ones in the war and that wasn’t enough; they wanted to be involved as well. They stepped up and they worked in factories and they made things for war. I also liked the patriotism that American showed as they stepped up and volunteered to go into this war.


What has stood out most about the trip so far?

-The type of people we have met. They are all a lot different than people I have met in previous points in my life. The people that we have met are much more open to speaking with you and really want to hear what you have to say.

-The atmosphere around this trip has stood out to me the most so far. The culture in New Orleans and Jackson and then even in Alabama is so interesting with all of the history and the passion that lives in the cities. I am very impressed with the progressiveness of the conversation of racial injustice that is going on for these southern societies.

-The kindness. everyone on this trip is nice and we’re all friends.

-How dilapidated certain areas in New Orleans are, due to Katrina.


What’s your favorite part so far?

-WWII Museum and Robby Luckett, who is a professor of Civil Rights and JSU and runs the COFO center

-My favorite part of the trip so far has been meeting all the people in our group as well as the speakers that we have heard from. It has been lots of fun meeting new friends.

-Going to Jackson, being able to see the differences between Jackson and New Orleans.

-Going bowling and bonding with the other teens, and get to know each other more.


What have you learned that you didn’t know before?

-I learned about the participation of the North and other countries in the slave trade and their involvement in slavery.

-When we went to the Museum in the Lower Ninth Ward, I learned about the racial profiling that was enacted by police after Hurricane Katrina

-The importance of bringing literature to incarcerated people.

-I learned about how Medgar Evers was shot and killed in his own home.


What were your feelings after visiting the Lower 9th Ward?

-We didn’t see anyone or anything. It’s the only part of the city that doesn’t have some obvious excitement to it.

-I was very saddened to see the poverty and the distraction that is still there after Hurricane Katrina. It is now an isolated place that needs a lot of work and help done to it but people are either not willing to go back cannot go back or not willing to do anything.

-It is unfair and absurd that the government left the victims of Katrina to fend for themselves.

-I was disappointed and surprised at the same time. The government built military houses instead of giving money to citizens. After 13 years, there are still many homes that are destroyed.

What do you want to bring back from this trip that you learned?

-I want to take home that the stigma against the South can be true but can also be utterly and completely false. We haven’t seen any overt acts of racism but we also are aware that there is still a culture of racism, as portrayed by the Confederate flag clearly in the Mississippi state flag.

-I want to be able to tell my parents more about civil rights because I learned so much, that was why I came here.


What are you looking forward to?

-I am looking forward to going to Montgomery, AL. I am excited to see how it differs from everywhere else we’ve been to.

-I am looking forward to all of the sightseeing we are doing in New Orleans. I am also looking forward to the Civil Rights Museum we are going to see in Alabama, especially the lynching museum that is new.


What did you learn in Mississippi?

-Learning the importance of having synagogues even if they’re small, because they brings people together.

-In Mississippi I learned about the Native American tribes that settled here a long time ago.


Did this trip surprise you in any way? if so why?

-I was expecting this trip to give me a lot of the information I had learned before but that is far from the case. I never expected that I would be able to see, in person, what a plantation looked like and how even the buildings were meant to oppress a population.

-The most surprising thing I have learned was how after the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery we found new ways to continue discriminating against minorities in the United States.

-I was surprised to learn about the government systems and how they failed during and after the hurricane.


What will you do with all of the knowledge you have gained on this trip once you return home?

-I will act like a boss in my history class. I will help educate people on the nuances of the American South.

-With all of the knowledge I learned on this trip I’m going to teach my family and friends about the injustices that still go on in America to help further prevent more injustices from occurring.

-When I return home from this trip I would like to take the knowledge I have learned and implement it into my Temple youth group at home and help educate the public and remind people of the importance of education when it comes to preventing things from happening again and again repeating our history.

-Use it to educate others and create positive change in my city.