IU history professor Alex Lichtenstein will lead students from IU through historic monuments in the Civil Rights Movement to commemorate American history and facilitate conversations about preserving national history.
This trip will take place from May 29 to June 4, 2022. Five students selected from IU will meet five students from the University of Novi Sad (UNS) in Serbia at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.
Over the course of the five-day trip, the group will travel through the South, making stops in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
The professor said he encourages all interested students to apply and write a piece explaining why they’re interested. Students don’t need to take specific courses beforehand.
Lichenstein said he is excited to see the students’ reactions to places like the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center in Sumner, Mississippi, as well as the Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. He also plans to take students to the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute in Selma, Alabama, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia.
“People in the South are trying to commemorate the Civil Rights Struggle because the story needs to be told,” Lichtenstein said. “They want to tell these stories and it’s exciting to hear.”
Prior to this trip with UNS, Lichtenstein collaborated with a group of students from Pretoria University in South Africa in the fall of 2019.
Since he taught the history of the Civil Rights Movement and South African History, he said he wanted to take students on a civil rights tour and compare the histories. He said he thought it was important to discuss how to memorialize and honor the struggles that both cultures faced.
“The trip was really fantastic - the best thing I’ve done as a college professor,” Lichtenstein said.
The professor said he hoped to emulate that experience with another group of students and that Serbian history was marked by ethnic cleansing. However, he said there are few means of paying tribute and analyzing that part of history. On the excursion, he said he hopes the Serbian students will understand how various monuments acknowledge the past and use American culture as an example in how they can introduce such aspects in their own lives and discussions.
Soon after, he worked with Carolyn Lantz, IU’s Director of International Affairs at the College of Arts & Sciences, to write a grant for a trip with UNS.
Lantz, who lived in Serbia for a summer, also used to work with the U.S. Department of States and helped Lichtenstein align the proposal with the intention of university engagement in American Studies and International Culture.
“I love the idea of American and Serbian students making these realizations together,” Lantz said. “For the Serbians, to be able to make connections while onsite is an unequal opportunity and can change their mindset about what’s possible in the future based on history.”
The College of Arts & Sciences received the grant for $100,000 and established a partnership with the University of Novi Sad’s history and english departments. Lantz said she attributed the award to the focus on Serbian history and a $50,000 donation for transportation fees by IU alumni Ann Jakisich Erne and David A. Erne.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to expose students to networks and opportunities in Former Yugoslavia in order to forge deeper connections,” Sarah D. Phillips, IU Director of the Russian and East European Institute, said. “And it’s important to show that kind of auxiliary support when pitching to the embassy.”