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HandsOnHistory Takes Students to Memphis

Catawba Valley Community College students recently experienced the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as part of the college’s HandsOnHistory travel study experience. Students were part of an African-American History class taught by Professor Richard Eller, or an African-American Literature class taught by Professor Robert Canipe.


Bryants Grocery Glendora, Miss.-HandsOnHistory 2018

The trip was coordinated through the Office of Multicultural Affairs by Executive Director Steve Hunt, “Minority Men on the Move” Coordinator, Ron Carson and Erika Tiscareño Velasco.

CVCC students and faculty attended celebrations held at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. Students toured the museum, visiting Room 306 and the balcony where Dr. King fell after being shot by James Earl Ray from a boarding house across the street. Students visited the boarding house, seeing the bathroom and window from which Ray fired the fatal shot.

The National Civil Rights Museum adjoins the historic buildings of the Lorraine Motel, a safe place for African-Americans to stay during Jim Crow and the early civil rights era. The museum contains 21st century interactive exhibits.

CVCC students were joined by Lenoir-Rhyne University students and Dean of Students, Dr. Katie Fisher, all attending speeches by the Rev. William Barbour, Jessie Jackson, and Congressman John Lewis, and a performance by the legendary African American soul singer Al Green.

The travel study experience also included a sojourn to visit the Emmet Till Historic Intrepid Center (ETHIC) in Glendora, Miss., and the ruin of the Bryant Grocery and Meats store where 14-year old Emmett Till supposedly wolf-whistled at a white woman causing his kidnapping and murder in 1955. Till’s lynching and his mother’s decision to display his broken body in an open casket sparked the modern civil rights era.

CVCC uses HandsOnHistory trips to make history come alive outside the classroom. The brainchild of Historian-in-Residence Richard Eller, “HandsOnHistory” enables students to see, touch, taste, and smell the places that their textbooks and lectures only tell them about. Trips in the past have included Civil War sites like Gettysburg, Penn., and Selma, Ala., where students take part in the annual march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge marking “Bloody Sunday.”

For more information, please contact Steve Hunt at 828-327-7000 ext. 4570 or Richard Eller at ext. 4620. To financially support HandsOnHistory or sponsor a student for a future trip, please contact Teresa Biggs in the CVCC Foundation at 828-327-7000 ext. 4288 or email


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