2016 Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage


The Faith and Politics Institute led a bipartisan Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to South Carolina on March 18-20, 2016. A delegation of up to three dozen members of Congress took part in a journey that explored the unique Civil Rights history of South Carolina visiting Columbia, Orangeburg and Charleston and listening to the stories of Civil Rights luminaries, religious leaders and historians.

U.S. House of Representatives Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC), U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), and Civil Rights movement icon U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA) co-hosted the weekend pilgrimage. Participants learned about South Carolina Civil Rights pioneers such as Septima Clark and about the 400-year old Gullah Geechee cultural heritage. They visited historic sites as that of the Orangeburg Massacre where three students were killed on February 8, 1968 while demonstrating against segregation. Participants also discussed the impact of the 2015 Charleston killing on the community, state and nation. The pilgrimage culminated in a Sunday worship service at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

The murders of nine people of faith at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston was a cornerstone of the pilgrimage that connected participants to the ongoing conversation of racial healing and reconciliation in America today. In the wake of the massacre, the faith and courage demonstrated by the survivors, members of the victims’ families and the Mother Emanuel AME church allowed the nation to witness the power of love and forgiveness, which holds open the door to increased understanding and reconciliation.

Those who led the Civil Rights movement and lived its history led this pilgrimage designed to support effective government by bringing members of Congress together in a spirit of openness, honesty and reconciliation across lines of race, religion and political party for the purpose of working together in service of our nation and the world.

Objectives for the Pilgrimage Included:

• To educate, encourage and inspire members of Congress’ continued commitment toward effective leadership in racial reconciliation;

• To enhance knowledge of Charleston and South Carolina’s place in the United States’ journey toward racial healing and equity;

• To acquaint participants with paths and processes toward creatively engaging lasting effects of history;

• To deepen understanding and appreciation of the spiritual and political dynamics of love and forgiveness; and

• To strengthen constructive relationships across lines of ideology, party, race and religion through a transformative experience with transcendent truth.

Since 1998, The Faith and Politics Institute has led annual bipartisan Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimages to five southern states affording hundreds of members of the U.S. House and Senate an experiential journey through the American civil rights movement as well as international trips. Described by some members as one of the most valuable experiences of their time in Congress, the bipartisan pilgrimages offer opportunities for engaged and reflective dialogue that transcends politics.

For more information, contact The Faith and Politics Institute at info@faithandpolitics.org. For media queries, please email josh.taylor@faithandpolitics.org.