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Historians experience memorable trip to America

History students at the White House during their trip to America

Sixty historians enjoyed an action-packed tour of New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC as part of their studies.

The first day of the tour took the group on an excellent guided tour of New York, led by two local experts. The tour meandered through the city, visiting sites such as Grand Central Station, Times Square and Central Park.

The highlight of the first day was visiting the top of the Rockefeller Center and viewing New York from above.

On day two, pupils visited the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum before heading on another tour of the downtown Manhattan area. This tour took the group via Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange followed by the World Trade Center and the moving 9/11 Memorial.

Reflecting on the trip to New York, Lower Sixth student Alex Carter said: “For me, the most interesting place we visited was, without doubt, the Oculus Centre and the 9/11 Memorial. The atmosphere was like nothing I have ever experienced and really highlighted the continued significance of the attack in the world today, two decades later.

“New York had much more to offer on top of this of course. This included the top of the Rockefeller Center, the Financial District and Wall Street, the grave of Alexander Hamilton, the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island and, indeed, the Statue of Liberty.”

Fellow Lower Sixth historian Anna Collins-Room added: “I really enjoyed the tours around the monuments of New York, which were a great introduction to the history of the amazing city. We toured many famous landmarks and it was also very interesting to see historical monuments up close, such as the 9/11 Memorial, which was a powerful experience reflecting the huge scale of the tragedy.

“I also found the Ellis Island Immigration Museum very interesting since it explained the history of modern America, which is built on a diverse mixture of ethnicities and origins. Its content spanned from the excitement of the new world starting in the 16th century, through to the slave trade and its political consequences, and the continued steady immigration to America to this day.”

After saying goodbye to New York, the tour then took in a few hours visiting Liberty Hall and the Liberty bell in Philadelphia, the place where the Declaration of Independence was first signed and the political backbone of the United States was first written, the US Constitution.

This was then followed by a drive onto Washington DC, the capital city of the USA. On the final couple of days of the tour the group visited the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the reflection pool.

Other highlights of Washington DC were the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Archives, Arlington Cemetery – where JFK is buried – and, who can forget, the legendary Ben’s Chilli Bowl!

Student Anna Howard commented: “Washington was a lot more peaceful than New York. The buildings were a lot more European in nature and it was beautiful. It was great to see the US Constitution and interesting to learn more about the history of how it came about.

“The African American History Museum was moving and daunting as we saw the movement of African Americans becoming less inferior in society and more recognised. I found it really interesting to see that every statue symbolised a bigger picture, specifically the Martin Luther King statue of him on a piece of rock from a mountain which symbolised his quote: ‘Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope’.

“The whole trip in general was incredible and a great experience. I’m glad I took the opportunity to attend.”

Lucy Smith said: “The most memorable moment of the trip for me was our visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was incredibly moving to see and read about the topics we will study for our coursework about the Civil Rights Movement, in particular the effect of segregation. This was particularly impactful when walking through a scale-model of a segregated tram carriage, bluntly emphasising the inequality in basic necessities such as water fountains and toilet facilities.

“The contradiction between the unimaginable hardships demonstrated and the abundance of creativity and joy that was clearly shown through the exhibits regarding music and culture was highly moving, demonstrating the pure resilience of African Americans in the face of horrific discrimination.”

Amelie Batey concluded: “The grandeur of Washington D.C is reflected through both their historic monuments, as well as their gleaming white architecture. The sheer size as scale of some of the monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument, although physically towered over by the skyscrapers of New York, somehow seem bigger due to their cultural significance to the people of America as well as their international recognisability.

“To see the foundations of American democracy in the form of the Declaration Of Independence or the Bill Of Rights as well as the physical buildings that represent their constitution, such as the White House and the Capitol, was such an interesting experience.

“We were able to see the foundation of our coursework in National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum excellently highlighted the hypocrisy of American history and the statement of ‘all men are created equal’. The museum was able to show the untold story of many of the forced immigrants of America whilst also highlighting the great achievements of many African Americans against the odds and their fight for civil rights. Washington D.C was filled with culture and history and was an amazing experience.”