Touring History

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School’s out for summer — and for the Anderson Monarchs, a youth traveling baseball team from South Philadelphia, that meant a 23-day, 4,000-mile journey through some of the most important historical and political sites in American history.

True to its name, the Civil Rights Barnstorming Tour was one part baseball tour and one part living history lesson. For three weeks this summer, a group of 13- and 14-year-olds joined each other on a 1947 Flxible Clipper bus as it weaved through 21 different cities, beginning in Philadelphia and making its way across the Deep South and back up through the Midwest. The Monarchs visited civil rights sites, met community leaders and baseball legends, and discussed American history in the places where it happened.

An early highlight of the trip was a visit with Georgia Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. In their meeting, Congressman Lewis shared first-hand accounts of the civil rights movement and talked about the power of peaceful protest and resistance to injustice.

The bus made its way through Atlanta, the home and resting place of Martin Luther King Jr.; Birmingham, Ala., the site of the infamous church bombing and the dog attacks on young civil rights activists; Montgomery, Ala., home to the bus boycott ignited by Rosa Parks; Selma, Ala., where a peaceful bridge crossing turned into “Bloody Sunday”; Jackson, Miss., where Medgar Evers gave his life and where Freedom Riders rallied; and the Lorraine Motel (today, the National Civil Rights Museum) in Memphis, Tenn., where Dr. King was assassinated.

Near the end of the trip, before the bus returned to Philadelphia, current events offered a springboard for one last group discussion: The Confederate flag was officially removed from the grounds at the state capitol in South Carolina.

The tour brought the young athletes on a journey through baseball history, too. The Monarchs played in baseball games, attended Major and Minor League contests, and received invites to some of baseball’s most hallowed locations.

Photographer Al Tielemans was on hand to document the historic trip. Follow below for Tielemans’ photos, along with personal descriptions from the young athletes themselves:

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For more on the Monarchs’ journey, see Tielemans’ personal account on his blog here.

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