By No Vacation Required, on March 5, 2014

History in the making

We spend so much time figuring out where to go next and planning travel that we rarely ponder what we would do if we could go back in time.

So when we heard about DreamWorks‘ new animated movie, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, we got to thinking: What if we could go back to witness history? What would we most like to see?

Since we are very focused on advocacy and equality, we thought it would be especially powerful if we could visit transformational moments in U.S. history; those pivotal events that have brought us to where we are today.

While it would be a headache to pack for a trip of this nature, our time travel itinerary and experiences might look something like this…

The women’s suffrage parade of 1913

We stand among the crowd—two supportive voices surrounded by an increasingly hostile and abusive group—as 8,000 participants from around the country march up Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. It’s a cold day in the capital and crowds are heavy because it’s the eve of President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. Previous marches had not ended well—women were intimidated, bullied, and beaten—so the women marching on this day know that they are risking their safety to stand up for their cause. We know that in just seven years, their bravery and determination will lead to the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, extending the right to vote to women.

Viewfinder Tip: Do research before visiting historical sites; it’s always better to experience them in real-life with a tour guide, on a tour.

As the Pennsylvania delegation marches by, we spot Ida B. Wells, an African-American suffragist. Minutes before she had shocked the crowd by ignoring a request that African American women march at the back and, instead, joined her delegation. We root her on for an act of defiance amidst an act of defiance—a significant risk that says, “I belong here.”

March on Washington for jobs and freedom

With women having earned the right to vote, we move on to one of the largest political rallies for human rights in U.S. history—a gathering that likely would have made Ida B. Wells very proud. 

The march begins at the Washington Monument and progresses to the Lincoln Memorial. The short distance belies the march’s significance; even though we are the only ones who have the benefit of hindsight, everyone seems to recognize that this is a pivotal moment in the fight for civil and economic rights for African-Americans. We start marching despite the fact that the event leaders are still meeting with members of Congress. They will just have to join in; progress has waited long enough.

March on Washington (from Wikimedia)

When we reach the National Mall’s iconic reflecting pool, we stand with nearly 300,000 others to hear a series of speeches that will shape American culture. Fortunately the United States Army Signal Corps fixed the sound system, which was sabotaged the night before. If they hadn’t, we would not be able to hear Dr. King utter the words, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”

First gay pride parade

We arrive in New York on a warm June 28, 1970, to participate in the Christopher Street Liberation Day, which we have to remember is not yet called “Gay Pride.”

Despite the fact that we had just walked behind Bayard Rustin, an openly gay man who coordinated the March on Washington 17 years prior, LGBT individuals are still without many basic human rights. But the Stonewall riots exactly one year before marked a pivotal moment in LGBT equality and served as the inspiration for this demonstration.

While a far cry from the Mardi Gras-like festivities we now know, the march atmosphere is electric. We are all so pumped up that we cover the 51 blocks to Central Park in less than half the scheduled time. It portends an equality movement that will make significant and relatively rapid strides in the years that follow. We want to share with fellow marchers that we know a day, thanks in part to this very parade, when millions around the world will fill the streets to celebrate major successes in LGBT equality.

We don’t have to time-travel to realize that we can effect similar change in the present. We only need to honor those who came before us, those who boldly took a stand against often overwhelming odds, and then act. This way, in the future, we can look back and realize we had participated in the events that further moved equality forward.

What do you consider to be the most historically significant U.S. travel destination?