NEH grant funds yearlong campus program to mark 50th anniversary of American civil rights movement

Posted by Centre News in Campus, News 11 Sep 2014

king_martin_lutherLong regarded as a place where important conversations take place, Centre College remains committed to cultivating campus discussions that value community, promote respect and embrace inclusion. Now, thanks to a Created Equal grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Centre is set to embark on a yearlong series of campus events in support of this goal, as the College announces programming centered on the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement in America.

Sponsored by the NEH and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle brings four outstanding films on the civil rights movement to select locations across the United States. These documentaries, along with related campus programming led by Lively Professor of Politics Daniel Stroup and Assistant Vice President for Diversity Education J.H. Atkins, will provide a unique opportunity for students and community members alike to discuss important issues around race relations.

“The events in Ferguson, Mo., show that there are questions that are not fully resolved yet. We still have a lot of tension in race relations in America, and we don’t find it very comfortable to talk about,” Stroup said. “Nonetheless, I do think we need to have that conversation, so I really applaud the NEH and the Gilder Lehrman Institute for encouraging us with the grant to do that.”

Screenings of the four films—The Abolitionists, Slavery by Another Name, Freedom Riders and The Loving Story—will take place throughout the academic year and will be open to the public. Following each film, community discussion sessions will be held to encourage attendees to reflect on issues of racial equality in modern society.

“The grant really carries with it fairly minimal responsibilities, but we decided to use it as the opportunity to do even more,” Stroup explains. “We’ve been working with people at the public library, as well as administrators at public schools to try to integrate this topic into the local schools curriculum.”

Taylor_Branch_1Beyond the scheduled films, several campus convocations throughout the year will also focus on themes of racial equality, with the first being Dr. Taylor Branch (pictured right) delivering the Constitution Day address on the “Myth and Miracles from the King Years.”

Branch is an American author and public speaker best known for what Stroup calls the “definitive” three-part narrative history of the civil rights era, America in the King Years. The trilogy’s first book, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63, won the Pulitzer Prize and numerous other awards in 1989. Branch began his career in 1970 as a staff journalist for The Washington Monthly, Harper’s and Esquire. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from ten colleges and universities.

“Taylor Branch is one of the most respected scholars of the movement,” says Stroup. “I can think of no better way to launch a yearlong conversation on those questions of race relations in America—still a very important, and necessary, discussion to this day.”

Dr. Taylor Branch will speak at the Constitution Day Convocation on Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in Newlin Hall. This event is free and open to the public.

Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker will also address students during a campus convocation in Newlin Hall on Thursday, Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Walker will read from his book of poetry Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, which was recently selected as the first-year book for Centre’s Class of 2018. In this collection, Walker illustrates the importance of renowned civil rights activist Medgar Evers. The reading kicks off the two-day Frank X Walker Literary Festival and is free and open to the public.

by Amy Clark Wise

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