When Troy D. Evans, executive director of Teach For America South Carolina (TFASC), recently visited the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery with Teach For America (TFA)’s national leaders, he wanted teachers to see this sobering, meaningful site and reflect on America’s history of racial inequity.
“Much of our work is focused on understanding race and racism and the outsized role it has played on educational access and opportunity in South Carolina,” said Evans. “By visiting sites like the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and participating in our racial equity trainings, our teachers are reminded of what’s at stake if we are not confronting educational inequity in the classroom and throughout the halls of education.”
Earlier this month, 30 second-year teachers, three alumni, and four staff members from TFASC took a weekend bus trip to visit the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery.
Opened by the Equal Justice Initiative the year prior, the Legacy Museum explores the history of racial inequality and its relationship to contemporary issues from mass incarceration to police violence. Located near the museum on a six-acre site, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.
After visiting the museum, TFASC teachers met with the Equal Justice Initiative legal team who discussed the school-to-prison pipeline and how the work of both organizations is intertwined. Following this discussion, TFASC teachers toured the memorial, then processed the profound experience together.
“After this experience, our teachers realized that the TFA movement is about more than teaching – it’s about making a lifelong commitment to equity,” remarked Kristina Yates, director of coaching and programming at TFASC. “At the end of this school year, we had a higher teacher retention rate because our bus trip to Montgomery, coupled with our curriculum, made a lasting impact on our second-year teachers.”