Alliance for Understanding

Alliance for Understanding (AU) is a program that provides students with the opportunity to explore the history of the Civil Rights Movement, Black and Jewish History in Civil Rights, as well as contemporary issues related to movement work.  

Program Goals:  

  • Join students as they explore the history of the Civil Rights Movement and contemporary Civil Rights issues together 
  • Participate in lectures, local trips, and discussions to strengthen your knowledge of social movement history, civil rights history, and the histories of Black and Jewish communities 
  • Bridge the gap between the past and the present as you visit four cities in the South during an alternative Spring Break trip 
  • Walk through history and meet the individuals who peopled the Civil Rights Movement 
  • Learn from others and deepen your self-understanding as we engage in daily reflection sessions and open discussions with your peers 
  • Become empowered to use your knowledge and resources to create social change 

Program Requirements: 

Successful applicants are required to participate in a retreat and a series of lectures and bonding activities prior to the trip. This is meant to provide the applicants with the foundation to get the most from the trip and their relationships with each other. 

The AU program is open to all interested Penn students. Knowledge of Civil Rights history or Black/ Jewish issues is NOT necessary for participation in this program. All we ask is a genuine interest in the topic, a willingness to learn, and a desire to meet and build new and unique relationships. 

Important Dates: 

Application Deadline: November 27, 2022 at midnight 

Retreat: Sunday, January 22, 2023 at 2PM – 6PM at Greenfield Intercultural Center 

Sunday Lectures:  

  • 1st lecture: January 29, 2023 
  • 2nd lecture: February 5, 2023 
  • 3rd lecture: February 12, 2023 
  • 4th lecture: February 19, 2023 
  • 5th lecture: February 26, 2023 

Travel Dates: Sunday, March 5 – Friday, March 11, 2023 


This program is a partnership between the Greenfield Intercultural Center, African American Resource Center, and Penn Hillel.

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The AU trip was amazing. It is one thing to read about these historic places, but actually being there and talking to history makers is extremely impactful. As we spent moer time in the South, it was clear that the narrative of a few paramount leaders inciting change is misleading; thousands of everyday people contributed to the movement. And many of these ordinary people were unaware of their extraordinary resolve and actions. Their stories were so inspring and made me want to somehow enact change in the world.

Alliance for Understanding was a trip that challenged me in ways I never imagined when I decided to sign up. Originally, I was mostly interested in understanding the way in which history was remembered, and viewed the trip as a hands-on way to explore this about a particular part of history I was not that well versed in. What I discovered was that not only was the Civil Rights era far more complicated than I had imagined, but more importantly that so many of my notions about race and class in America were at best naive, and at worst, dangerously ignorant. AU’s ability to blend so many different ways of learning together in such a short time is what I felt was the biggest strength of the program. Not only were we able to visit many museums and learn about a host of topics, but the discussions with people from Ms. Joanne to the archivisit to the Graetzs made the history and the memories real in a personal, yet academic way. Moreover, actually being at the sites themselves allowed me to feel certain emotions that are difficult to come by when reading a book or watching a movie. Finally, the group of peers that went on the trip broadened my understanding of what I was seeing/experiencing exponentially.