New “Freedom Ride” trip introduced to Leading Edge pre-orientation experience

The new trip takes students on a week-long bus ride through three different states


Trip participants read a plaque at the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo courtesy of Tammy Futrell.

Shefali Konda

Two deans, a professor and 10 first-year students traveled on a bus for a week through Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia, touring historical sites significant to the civil rights movement before matriculating for their first semester at Washington and Lee.

The Freedom Ride trip is the newest addition to the Leading Edge program that sponsors pre-orientation trips for first-year students.

Dean for First-Year Experience Dean Rodocker said the trip is part of Washington and Lee University’s strategic plan, which included a commitment to renewed focus on diversity and inclusion in the community. Trip participants explored racial injustice and resistance during the Jim Crow Era.

The program was created by Dean Tamara Futrell, Dean Tammi Simpson and Africana Studies professor Michael Hill to introduce students to the social institutions that formed the Civil Rights Movement. The idea for the trip came from a spring term class taught by Professor Ted DeLaney, Hill said.

A group of 10 incoming first-year students traveled through Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia for the Freedom Ride pre-orientation trip. Photo courtesy of Tammy Futrell.

Hill said that he wanted to guide students through well-known and more obscure historical episodes of the movement. 

“Instead of offering the familiar litany of actions, I wanted them to see how celebrity activists like Martin Luther King Jr. fit into a continuum with figures like Barbara Johns and Monroe Morton,” Hill said. “I endeavored to cast the civil rights movement as a primer for 21st century community building.” 

The Freedom Ride bus ride took students through three main stops: Farmville, Va., Greensboro, N.C. and three cities in Georgia. At each location, students visited museums and historical sites of the movement, including The Moore’s Ford Lynching Site and The International Civil Rights Museum.

Naveed Javid, a first-year trip participant, said he enjoyed immersing himself in the sites and experiences that activists once faced. 

“I think it helped provide contextual evidence on the multitude of racial atrocities faced by African Americans during the Jim Crow era and even before,” he said. “It helped me understand the underlying factors behind much of the racism that could be associated with the school and ways in which to respectfully engage with it.”

Hill said the trip expands on the common images that students may associate with the civil rights movement.

“While civil rights activities are often associated with buses, schools, and lunch counters, a cursory glimpse at the movement shows that barbershops, churches, and private residences also occupied key positions,” Hill said. 

Hill added that Washington and Lee has a complex past and Freedom Ride helps introduce students on campus to its history.