Project Overview


Join the over 1,300 educators from 45 states and 5 foreign countries who have journeyed to Alabama to experience “Stony the Road We Trod…” This particular “Stony . . .” Institute offers a unique opportunity for teachers to participate in an in-depth, three-week, intensive study of the Modern Civil Rights Movement and the pivotal role that Alabama played in making the promises of the U.S Constitution a greater reality for more Americans.  Teachers will trace the role of protest in American history as a tool used to obtain civil liberties and civil rights by examining Alabama’s pivotal role in the Modern Civil Rights Movement. Birmingham will serve as the host city for the institute which includes field study in Selma, Montgomery, and Tuskegee – all key “battleground” sites in the struggle for civil rights.

The protest movement that evolved into the American Revolution created a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Yet, 187 years after the Revolutionary War, at the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called for a nonviolent revolution to attain those same civil liberties and civil rights long denied men and women of color.

The struggles for freedom and equality that played out in the streets of Birmingham greeted citizens every night and day by way of television news reports and newspaper headlines screaming, not from local papers, but from major newspapers across the nation and around the world.  Once children took the lead in the freedom struggle, there was no turning back.  With images of school children facing policemen in riot gear, firemen with high powered water hoses, the police commissioner in a white army tank, and German shepherd police dogs biting bystanders, the attention of the world was focused on Birmingham in 1963.  Linked arm in arm with a resolve that they wouldn’t let anyone turn them around, these young foot soldiers marched into the annals of American history and set free a city once dubbed as the most segregated city in America.

As the nation remembers the events that took place in Alabama during the 1960s, it is most fitting that school teachers come here to study the events of the Modern Civil Rights Movement and examine how events here changed the world. Landmarks of industry, faith, social and cultural clashes dot the landscape.  To fully understand the background and accomplishments of the civil rights movement one must examine the economic, social, political, cultural, and judicial institutions that crafted Jim Crow and set the nation on a course with destiny that erupted on a bus in Montgomery, climaxed in the streets of Birmingham, and set a course for the Alabama State Capitol via a bridge in Selma.

“I feel genuinely privileged to have attended and participated in this unbelievable journey.” – Participant

Participants will better understand the who, what, how, where, and why of the important events in Alabama that forced African American leaders to take their struggle for freedom and equality out of the church and social settings where they talked, planned, and strategized about how to “fix the broken systems” and into the streets so that the entire world could see what it meant to live life as a “second class citizen” in the land of justice, freedom, equality, and opportunity.

Scholars have sifted through records, interviewed iconic and everyday history makers, and visited the city and its landmarks in an effort to help the world understand the significance of what happened in Alabama.

Historic Bethel Baptist Church, where Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth served as pastor from 1954-1961 will serve as a partner and host site.  Visiting Bethel will help educators gain a deeper insight and understanding of how the efforts of movement leaders, working class people, and the courage of children in Birmingham broke the back of segregation in “America’s Johannesburg.”

The State of Alabama is synonymous with Civil Rights.  Landmark places like Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery, and Tuskegee have left an indelible mark in the minds of people around the world. Looking back over the last 55 plus years of American history, the United States has made monumental progress as it relates to the cause of civil liberties and civil rights.  Separate drinking fountains and restrooms, “colored balconies” in movie theaters, and seats in the back of the bus are memories of the United States that are incomprehensible to students today.

Teachers participating in this institute will engage in stimulating lectures presented by noted scholars, participate in discussion groups, meet Movement leaders and foot soldiers; examine works of art, literature, and music; and travel to landmark sites dedicated to the preservation of the history and accomplishments of the Modern Civil Rights Movement.

“I was really looking forward to my first NEH workshop. Stony far exceeded my expectations.” – Participant

The Modern Civil Rights Movement forced the nation to re-think, re-examine, and re-structure how it dealt with issues of race, justice, and citizenship. Using a combination of scholarship, first hand accounts from history makers, travel, primary and secondary source documents,  teachers will examine how the political, social, economic, and cultural institutions of the United States of America were changed as a result of the events that took place in Alabama.  Examining these institutions will help participants paint a clearer picture in their “historic minds” of the impact of the struggles for civil and human rights upon the institutional threads that shaped the fabric of our nation for centuries.

Teachers will work in cooperative grade level groups to develop lesson plans and/or study units based on prior knowledge and knowledge gained as a result of their institute experiences, interaction with scholars, presenters and peers, and travel experiences. All of the planned activities are designed to not only increase knowledge of this era of history but to also enhance instructional delivery skills.  All lesson plans and curricular units will be developed based on national standards making it easier for teachers to craft plans that fit their state course of study.

The project director and master teacher will model and present several interactive sessions designed to help participants make curricular connections and explore instructional strategies and formats designed to keep students interested, involved, and motivated.  This model of instruction mirrors what great teachers do every day.  Teachers will not be asked to abandon their proven techniques, but will find ways to dramatically enhance what they are doing to maximize retention.

To enhance your ability to effectively transfer the knowledge and experiences gained as a result of the institute, you will be provided a plethora of resources and proven research-based instructional strategies to help teach the history of the Modern Civil Rights Movement in ways that students will remember what was taught long after the test.

The creative and innovative approach of this project is true professional development.  First, participants are immersed in the history of the Modern Civil Rights Movement by working with scholars, meeting history makers and traveling to landmark sites.  Secondly, to further the ability to effectively transfer the knowledge and experiences gained as a result of the institute, teachers are actively engage in proven research-based strategies to help them better teach this era of United States history.

The fact that the “Movement” has just made it into the history books with the re-structuring of many curricula making 20th Century U.S. History a stand-alone course, dictates that teachers need support in this era.  This restructuring also means that many teachers have not studied the events of the movement in any disciplined way.  For teachers who are old enough to remember the events or who may have taken part in the movement, memory may be blurred by racial, emotional, or family biases. Scholars are still sifting through the facts, fiction, myths and personal memories in search of the truth. Alabama presents educators a unique learning laboratory from which to explore and make sense of this time period for themselves and their students.