Swearer Center hosts its seventh annual trip to Mississippi, building on the Brown-Tougaloo Partnership
The Brown University-Tougaloo College Partnership
Each year, as part of the Brown-Tougaloo Partnership (BTP), the Swearer Center organizes a trip to Mississippi where students can explore the history and legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and the Brown-Tougaloo Partnership
During Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, a group of 16 Brown students and three Swearer Center staff members journeyed to Mississippi where they met with students, staff and faculty at Tougaloo College and connected with local activists through tours of the Mississippi Delta Civil Rights Heritage sites.
For the first time, applications to participate in the trip were open to all Brown students. Previously it was open to Bonner Fellows. This year, students affiliated with the Swearer Center, Brown Center for Students of Color and Undocumented, First-Generation College, and Low-Income Student Center (UFLi) participated. Making the BTP trip accessible to more students has been part of Swearer and Brown’s intent to further strengthen the partnership between Brown and Tougaloo College. For more on the context of this trip and the history of the Brown-Tougaloo Partnership, read this feature on last year’s trip.
Connecting with Tougaloo’s Campus and Visiting the Two Mississippi Museums
Over the course of the five days, the group met educators, artists, activists, fellow students from Tougaloo College and elementary school-aged students.
Brown students were invited to visit Tougaloo’s campus to learn about its history through a tour of the school’s archive and conversations with faculty and students from the Reuben V. Anderson Institute for Social Justice. Tougaloo Archivist Mr. Tony Bounds led a campus tour, sharing a wealth of information about the college’s history and involvement with the Civil Rights Movement, including local and national context.
The group from Brown explored two Mississippi Museums and explored local food in the Jackson area. The group visited Bully’s Restaurant, a small, family-owned soul food restaurant with a national reputation. Mississippi Senators Robert Jackson and Kelvin Butler, apparent Bully’s regulars, were also at the restaurant, affording Brown students the unexpected chance to meet and speak with the Senators.
Students emphasized how meaningful it was to end the day by visiting the i-Serve Project site, an after-school program at the Mississippi Arts Commission that connects young students directly with local artists and provides tutoring and other educational services. One Brown student shared that after spending a challenging day learning about the injustices of the past, “the i-Serve visit showed me a beautiful glimpse into the future.”
Touring the Delta with Freedom Rider Charles McLaurin
Civil Rights Activist Freedom Rider Charles McLaurin led Brown students on a two-day tour through the Delta area. Stopping frequently at Civil Rights Movement historical markers, Mr. McLaurin, who prefers to go by Mac, shared many of his first-hand experiences of events. Laughingly, with solemn pauses, he shared stories about his time as Fannie Lou Hamer’s campaign manager, recounting how she convinced him to take the role by saying, “Mac, you know as much about being a campaign manager as I do about qualifying for congress.”
Mr. McLaurin’s shared personal experience was especially impactful for students, with one participant sharing, “There's something about anecdotal knowledge and the power of hearing them voice their own stories – it felt so real. They lived histories that I often detach myself from, acting very numb to these violent, racist pasts. And hearing these histories from people who experienced them firsthand was a new kind of reckoning I had to do and process.”
The two days in the Delta wrapped up with a reflection circle led by Freedom Rider Hezekiah Watkins. He described his life journey with the Civil Rights Movement, sharing how he unintentionally became the youngest Freedom Rider. Mr. Watkins detailed how his work in activism shaped his understanding of human relationships and the power they can have. This moment represented a central theme that impacted the students at several different points during and after the trip, with one attendee reflecting, “This visit has made me think critically about my existence within my community and how I can meaningfully contribute to the community that raised me,” and another appreciating how the Delta tour “reminded [them] how close we are to history and how important it is to learn about what took place.”
Exploring Jackson through Community Work
While in downtown Jackson, students had the opportunity to visit the Margaret Walker Center, the COFO Civil Rights Education Center and Cooperation Jackson. Angela Stewart, archivist at Margaret Walker Center, described Walker as “the most famous woman that nobody knows,” and enumerated the many ways Walker changed the literary landscape for Black women. Also part of the Margaret Walker Center is the COFO Civil Rights Education Center, which operated the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project from its site in 1964. During the final stop, Cooperation Jackson staff members described their work and shared the importance of developing economic and social support networks for Black entrepreneurs locally.
Ways to Get Involved
As Brown maintains and builds on the Brown-Tougaloo Partnership, including through the recent appointment of its first-ever HBCU presidential fellow, this annual trip emphasizes the importance of resource-sharing, reflection, cross-cultural learning and, above all else, the need for community building in enacting change. Visit our webpage to learn more about engaging through the Swearer Center.