Exploring Civil Rights and Personal Growth: A Fulbright Seminar Journey in Atlanta

4 min readMay 17, 2024

My Fulbright Seminar Journey started earlier this year, when I was still filling out my preferences for the seminar. I was provided with a list of thematic enrichment seminars including ones about space exploration, business and entrepreneurship, and music. Yet, the one that caught my eye was the seminar about the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, mainly because it was the most related to my studies in International Affairs.

2024 Enrichment Seminar Group photo, Atlanta

A couple of months later when I was informed that I got selected to study IA with the Fulbright Program, which I had put as my first preference, I was so excited to know it would be in Atlanta. I always look forward to visiting different states during my stay in the United States and Georgia seemed particularly interesting to me! However, I did not know that Atlanta was the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The first thing that caught my attention happened during the opening dinner, focused on the role of women throughout the movement. The keynote address for the dinner, titled “We Shall Not Be Moved,” was provided by Dr. Vicki Crawford, Director of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection. Dr. Crawford spoke to us about the role of women and how it is frequently overshadowed by the voices of men, including Martin Luther King Jr. himself. We talked about Mrs. King and how she was the force behind MLK and worked on mobilizing support for him. She also participated in numerous anti-poverty efforts, always showing a deep commitment to preserving King’s legacy.

On the first day of the seminar, I was acutely reminded of one of the holistic approaches introduced to me during my work with the UN. The panel discussion, “Honoring a Legacy: Remembering the Civil Rights Movement and Building a Future”, set a great example of how academia, journalism, and public policy come together to bring about changes to societies. It was, as I mentioned above, a representation of a whole-of-society approach to ensure a practical implementation of social justice. During the panel discussion, I was fascinated, inspired, and motivated as I learned about Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and how the African American community strived to achieve excellence even under unjust social circumstances. Moreover, the speakers talked about “Cop City” — the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, currently in the process of being built. We learned about ongoing protests against the construction of the training center, as well as the efforts of public policy institutions and civil society organizations calling for its halt.

Adding to the richness of the first day, I also was part of the site visit to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The least that I could say is that the opportunity was life changing — and honestly quite overwhelming. Leaving the center, I was humbled and inspired by past heroes and heroines who have fought for human and civil rights. I was moved to tears when I attempted to do the Lunch Counter Sit-In. The experience intends to simulate a civil rights movement that began in 1960, where young African American students initiated a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. The students remained despite being denied service. Furthermore, I found myself perplexed as I stared at the Prisoners of Conscience piece, feeling hopeful for a better future due to human rights advocates like those represented on the board, yet simultaneously frightened by the extent to which corrupt systems may go to silence voices of conscience

National Center for Civil and Human Rights

On a personal development side, I also wanted to mention the “Make Big Talk Workshop”. Big Talk is a global movement started by a fellow Fulbright Scholar to avoid small talk and encourage people, strangers, to get deep and personal. The workshop had Fulbrighters, including myself, sit at different tables and ask questions using the ‘Big Talk’ mentality. It pushed me to reflect on feelings I have been suppressing and habits I have been intending to work on; it was beautiful when I saw other Fulbrighters attempting to implement Big Talk during the closing dinner as well. I think this session specifically was the most impactful, not just for myself but for everyone who attended the workshop. I was also happy to see the achievements of other Fulbright Scholars and the change we can bring into the world.

Finally, I also got to experience the beauty of Georgia during the last day of the seminar. Even though the seminar was hosted in midtown Atlanta, I was still fascinated by the greenery and serenity I experienced walking around Piedmont Park with Fulbrighter friends. Later, I had the chance to hike through the South Peachtree Creek Trail in Decatur, Alabama. Overall, the trip to Atlanta was informative, enriching, fun, and transformative. Getting to share such an experience with Fulbrighter friends, old and new, was indeed a blessing.

Midtown Atlanta

Amira is a 2023 Fulbrighter from Egypt. She studies International Affairs at California State University.