Auburn High School AP U.S. History Teacher Leading Grant Funded Project, “Land of Freedom: The Civil Rights Movement in East Alabama”

AP U.S. history teacher Dr. Blake Busbin led the Auburn High School’s Veterans Project, having the students interview almost 300 veterans to give them a chance to act like historians by recording history as well as giving these stories to the community, Library of Congress and to the veterans.

The AHS veterans project won him 2017 Alabama History Teacher and a top ten finalist spot for National Teacher of the year.

This year, they talked about having a new perspective on oral history.

They applied for a grant through the Alabama Humanities Foundation in Birmingham to begin: “Land of Freedom: The Civil Rights Movement in East Alabama.”

They are giving the foundation a three year project telling the Civil Rights story in East Alabama primarily focusing on Lee County.

The first year: they are going to focus on the desegregation of education in this area.

“We often hear the story of Birmingham, or Montgomery, Selma, but every community has a Civil Rights story. Every community has a struggle and it’s uniquely different from each community and it’s until we get all the community’s stories do we truly understand the Civil Rights movement. I think it’s going to be neat for the students to understand our local story in comparison to the broader narrative,” said Dr. Bustin.

As part of the grant, they’ll read “Cradle of Freedom:Alabama’s story on the Civil Rights Movement” and have the author speak to the class.

They’ll also work on an exhibit, in conjunction with the graphic design program, available for public viewing in the Auburn Public Library.

“It’s truly placing them within history,” said Dr. Busbin.

They are also kicking off a four day trip in the Spring called: “Journey to Freedom.”

They’ll go to Montgomery, Jackson, Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee, Birmingham and end in Atlanta allowing students to stop at major historic sites.

“It’s really going to relate to the real world and I’m not just sitting in the classroom learning about the Civil Rights movement, I’m getting people’s first hand accounts of it, so I think it’s very valuable to society,” said Ashley Sellers, Junior at Auburn High School.

Those who had Dr. Busbin as a student, while getting his three degrees at Auburn University, couldn’t be more proud.

“History and government can be some of the less popular subjects in high school, students usually see it as irrelevant or very difficult. But, with Blake’s projects, he’s giving them an authentic experience of seeing the intellectual skills it takes to be a historian. It gets them excited about history,” said Dr. Jada Kohlmeier, Professor of Social Studies Education at Auburn University.

This year 144 students will be working on the project. But, they hope to eventually expand it so all high school junior students can work on it bringing that to more than 1,000 students having an impact on recording this history.

They also need your help. They are looking for those who helped integrate the schools, who were part of these first classes at J.F. Drake high school or Darden high school.

They are looking for pictures of the schools in that period and year books to use as artifacts for the public exhibit.

If you want to help or donate, email Dr. Buskin at or contacting Auburn High School.

Related Articles