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 home >> civil rights history project >> civil rights program series >> program descriptions & bios

Many Paths to Freedom:
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
at the Long Civil Rights Movement

February – September 2014

A Public Program Series from the Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. SE
Washington, DC

Program Descriptions & Biographies

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Glen PearcyGlen Pearcy
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Glen Pearcy
Glen Pearcy Productions, Barnesville, MD

Documenting the Freedom Struggle in Southwest Georgia: The Civil Rights Movement is one of the best documented chapters in American history.  Iconic images and sounds, captured in photographs and films, are indelibly identified with the events and people of the time: sit-ins by college students at lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina; Freedom Riders’ buses burned to the ground by angry white mobs in Anniston, Alabama; Dr. Martin Luther King delivering the “I have a Dream” speech on the Lincoln Memorial steps in Washington, DC.
But, while the most widely circulated documentation of the period is from major press outlets such as newspapers and television stations, the work of photographers and filmmakers who worked for the Movement is equally important.  Their images, born out of long-term involvement in Movement activities, have a quality not always available in the results produced by the press corps, who were present only for the limited duration of some public "event" or gathering.  Rather, Movement documentarians recorded people and actions far away from the public gaze, in intimate, reflective moments, often over the course of long periods of time.
Glen Pearcy's documentary work with the Southwest Georgia Project is the result of this sort of sustained involvement. His initial exposure to the freedom struggle came in 1965, when he went to Alabama to photograph the Selma-to-Montgomery march for his college newspaper. Then, in 1967, Pearcy and his wife Susan, an artist, joined the Southwest Georgia Project, led by Charles Sherrod. He documented the Project's initiatives in the communities surrounding Albany, in particular photographing local people at work and in their homes. The following year Pearcy started experimenting with making silent movies and subsequently combined that material with synch-sound footage to make the documentary, One More River To Cross. In the mid-eighties Pearcy returned to Southwest Georgia to begin work on a new film about the Project, with the working title of Twenty Years. While the film was not completed due to a lack of funding, the unedited 16mm footage and audio, along with the earlier film, are now archived at the Library of Congress.

Glen and wife Susan Due Pearcy's involvement in activist casues eventually led to their working with Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers organization in the early 1970's. Glen's third film, Fighting For Our Lives, a feature-length documentary about the UFW's 1973 grape strike, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1975. It is the subject of his September 25th presentation at the Library.

Glen Pearcy is an award-winning filmmaker and photographer, who has written, produced and directed dozens of films, including documentaries for PBS and Turner Network Television; programs for labor unions, consumer organizations, environmental groups, government agencies and political organizations; and television and radio spots for public interest groups, foundations, political candidates and commercial clients. His film work began in 1968 when he and his wife, Susan, joined an important organizing effort of the Civil Rights Movement, the Southwest Georgia Project. The Library of Congress acquired his film materials from Southwest Georgia for its permanent collection in 2012 (AFC 2012/040). Pearcy was nominated for an Academy Award in 1975 for his third film, Fighting For Our Lives, a feature-length documentary film about the United Farm Worker's 1973 grape strike. His films have won two Gold Hugos at the Chicago International Film Festival, six Tellys, and numerous other prizes and awards.

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Adriane Lentz-Smith Adriane Lentz-Smith
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Adriane Lentz-Smith
Assistant Professor, Duke University

World War I and the Long Civil Rights Movement: Histories of the civil rights movement often begin with the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown decision and end in the wake of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but the black freedom struggle commenced decades before Brown and extended long after the victories of the mid 1960s. For instance, the generation before Martin Luther King forged their civil rights ideology by appropriating President Woodrow Wilson's rhetoric in service to their own visions of self-determination and by protesting his Administration's expansionist vision of Jim Crow. In this talk, Adriane Lentz-Smith stresses the importance of World War I in the long civil rights movement by arguing that it provided a crucial training ground and intellectual crucible for the subsequent flowering of postwar civil rights activism.
World War I shifted how African Americans saw their world—with long-term effects on how they defended their freedom rights. For many of the 200,000 black soldiers sent to Europe with the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, encounters with French civilians and colonial African troops led them something beyond Jim Crow. At the same time, violent conflict with white American soldiers reminded them how hard-fought any change would be. They returned home to join activists, determined to make their world  "safe for democracy." For the rest of their lives, veterans like historian Rayford Logan and volunteers like club-woman Kathryn Johnson framed their civil rights efforts in the context of their war-time experiences: critiquing white supremacy; seeking alignment with other communities of color; and using the international stage to highlight the mis-steps of American democracy. The mass civil rights movement that grew up during World War II owed much to their unflagging vigilance.

Adriane Lentz-Smith is Associate Professor of History at Duke University. Her interests lie in African American history and the history of the US and the World. Her 2009 book, Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I, looks at the black freedom struggle in the World War I years, with a particular focus on manhood, citizenship claims, and the international experience. It won an Honor Book award in the nonfiction category from the 2010 Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Awards. Lentz-Smith's recent research explores how African Americans engaged the world in the age of Cold War civil rights, and how their participation in US state and empire set the horizons of their freedom struggles.

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David Cline David Cline
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David Cline
Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech University

African Americans and the Korean War: The Korean War is often referred to as “The Forgotten War,” and none of its veterans are less recognized or remembered than those of African American descent. Their exclusion is all the more stark given their pivotal contributions to the war and the historic nature of their participation, which came just after President Truman's executive order calling for integration of the U.S. military in 1948. David Cline's soon-to-be-published research examines the war as experienced by the 135,000 black men and women who served in Korea, and is based on oral histories and archival collections including the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project and dozens of interviews gathered for the 2003 American RadioWorks’ documentary, Korea: The Unfinished War. It seeks to accomplish several goals, in particular to connect the desegregation of the military, and the individual experiences of African Americans at war, to the history of the Civil Rights Movement, which began before the war and which achieved major judicial and legislative victories soon after its end. The importance of the Korean War experience in molding activists and inspiring work against the racial status quo can be seen in the work of a few important African American leaders who served during the Korean War including Congressman Charles Rangel, Robert F. Williams (an early proponent of black power and armed self defense), activist Ivory Perry, James Forman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and civil rights activist James Meredith. They and many other African American veterans fought for democracy overseas while they were denied it at home and returned to America honor-bound to change that for good. Taken together, these interviews and additional archival and other written sources show that the 38th parallel was not the only major battle line -- blacks had to fight wars on many fronts to achieve equality within the service and in civilian life.

David Cline is Assistant Professor in the History Department at Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, VA. His research focuses on twentieth century U.S. social movements, oral history, and public history. He has a particular interest in the roles of religious progressives in social movements, including the civil rights and women's movements. He is one of the research scholars and interviewers for the Civil Rights History Project, sponsored by the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. Dr. Cline previously worked on the team of historians and journalists affiliated with American RadioWorks (Minnesota Public Radio) and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University to conduct a conscientious reexamination of the Korean War period, Korea: The Unfinished War, which aired on National Public Radio stations in July 2003. His previous publications include Creating Choice: A Community Responds to the Need for Abortion and Birth Control, 1961-1973 (Palgrave Macmillan 2006). He is co-editor of Palgrave Macmillan's Studies in Oral History book series.

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Thomas F. Jackson Thomas F. Jackson
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Thomas F. Jackson
Associate Professor, UNC- Greensboro & Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Charlottesville, VA

The Kennedy Bill and the Civil Rights Vanguard, 1963-1964: At the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, why did Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Chairman John Lewis express "great reservations" about the historic Kennedy civil rights bill recently put before Congress? As early as July, the student civil rights vanguard working with grassroots people in the Deep South had concluded that the bill would not adequately protect voting rights or civil liberties. Nor did it offer much hope for an effective attack on poverty and dependency. Title II of the bill, outlawing segregated public accommodations, had become the centerpiece, because, as Burke Marshall of the Justice Department told John and Robert Kennedy, "this business of the lunch counters is what makes Negroes maddest." But in the dangerous, terrorized places of Mississippi and Alabama, the Administration’s earlier promises to secure voting rights and protection for citizens’ physical safety and freedom of assembly remained the highest priorities. Despite Justice Department efforts to bring suit against local officials, students and local people felt betrayed. They renewed the demand for federal "Title III" authority to protect citizens from police violence and arbitrary arrest. And they argued without economic security -- fair and full employment and protection from economic reprisals -- that no number of greasy hamburgers and giant-sized Coca Colas, now available in desegregated restaurants, would protect their political rights (or make the meals affordable). The President, too, knew this by the summer of 1963. Accordingly, the presentation explores the strengths and weaknesses of the Administration’s emergent "attack on poverty" against the backdrop of these tensions.

Thomas F. Jackson is Associate Professor of History at UNC- Greensboro and a 2013-14 Fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Charlottesville, VA. His forthcoming book investigates the "Revolution of 1963," detailing the local struggles for rights and justice in communities across the South in that critical period for the black freedom struggle. His previous publications include From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice (Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), which won the 2007 Liberty Legacy Foundation Award of the Organization of American Historians.

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Hasan Kwame Jeffries Hasan Kwame Jeffries
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Hasan Kwame Jeffries
Associate Professor, Ohio State University

The Ballot and the Bullet: Grassroots Organizing in Lowndes County, Alabama, 1965-1966: The dominant view of the civil rights movement holds that Martin Luther King Jr. was the movementís singular voice, chief strategist, and primary decision maker. This King-centric view of the movement, however, obscures far more than it reveals. One of the major drawbacks of this perspective is that it overemphasizes mass mobilizing events such as marches and demonstrations, and deemphasizes the importance of grass-roots organizing - the slow and hard work of getting ordinary people to act on their deeply held desire to change the status quo. The sustained canvassing activities of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organizers in the Alabama Black Belt in mid-1960s, for example, is given short shrift compared to marches led by King in Birmingham and Selma during the same period, regardless of the outcome. In 1965, LOOK magazine sent a photojournalist to Lowndes County, Alabama to document the grassroots organizing activities of SNCCís Lowndes County project, which was being spearheaded by Stokely Carmichael. The resulting images, now housed in the Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs Division, provide a rare glimpse into the slow and hard work of grassroots organizing. This presentation uses those images to not only explore the process of organizing -- especially as it was deployed in pursuit of the ballot -- but also as a prism through which to examine the role of self-defense in helping to ensure equal access to the ballot.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries is Associate Professor in the History Department at Ohio State University. Dr. Jeffries specializes in 20th century African American history and has an expertise in the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. His 2010 book, Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama's Black Belt, won the 2010 Clinton Jackson Coley Award for the best book on local history from the Alabama Historical Association. He is one of the research scholars and interviewers for the Civil Rights History Project, sponsored by the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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Bob Moses Bob Moses
Photo by Michael Linset
Math for American
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Robert “Bob” Parris Moses
Founder & President, The Algebra Project;

We The People: Constitutional People & Personal Responsibility for the Message of the Preamble

Robert “Bob” Parris Moses is Founder and President of The Algebra Project, Inc.  He received his BA from Hamilton College (1956), and his MA in Philosophy from Harvard University (1957).  Moses was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1961, Moses initiated SNCC’s Mississippi Voter Registration Project, and was appointed its director in 1962. He helped to lead the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) into the Mississippi Summer Project (1964 Freedom Summer), which parachuted the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) to the National Democratic Convention in Atlantic City. He received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1982‐87), and subsequently started the Algebra Project (AP), which uses mathematics as an organizing tool for a Quality Education as a Constitutional Right (QECR) for all students. With support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) since 2002, the AP has been working with cohorts of high school students who previously performed in the lowest quartile on standardized exams. This work has led AP to propose a math high school “benchmark” for bottom quartile students: that they graduate high school on time, in four years, ready to do college math for college credit. To this end AP is exploring collaborations around a concept of “Math Cohort High Schools”. Moses is co-author of Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project (Beacon, 2001) and co-editor of Quality Education as a Constitutional Right: Creating a Grassroots Movement to Transform Public Schools (Beacon Press, 2010). In 2011-2012, Moses was the Distinguished Visitor for the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University, and was a visiting lecturer at NYU School of Law during the fall semesters, 2012 and 2013.

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Dorie Ladner Dorie Ladner
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Dorie Ladner
Activist, Educator

Dorie Ladner is an activist, a licensed graduate social worker, a scholar of the people's history of the Civil Rights Movement, and the recipient of a 2011 humanitarian award from the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy. She was just fourteen years old when she joined the freedom movement in 1955 after the lynching of Emmett Till. She began attending state NAACP meetings, was mentored by freedom struggle pioneers, Clyde Kennard and Medgar Evers, and eventually enrolled at Jackson State University in Mississippi. Her support of the Tougaloo Nine, students who were organizing to desegregate the public library, led to her expulsion from the University. Subsequently, as a student at Tougaloo College, MS, she joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, commonly pronounced "snick"), a group founded in 1960 by college students who challenged segregation through sit-ins at restaurant counters, education and organizing activities, and other forms of non-violent direct action. One of the founding members of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), Dorie Ladner was the first woman to join the COFO staff at the Jackson office, organized voter registration campaigns during Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964, and served as SNCC's project director in Natchez in 1965. She participated in and helped organize several major civil rights actions from 1963 to 1968, including the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (with her sister Joyce), the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March, and the 1968 Poor Peopleís March. As an anti-poverty community organizer in St. Louis, Missouri, Ladner was an early advocate for civil rights in housing and employment. She went on to earn her masterís degree at Howard Universityís School of Social Work (MSW) in 1975 and became an accredited Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). For twenty-eight years she provided supportive intervention and patient counseling at D.C. General Hospital. In retirement, she is a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) and continues her long career of dedicated service and activism to the present day.

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Joyce Ladner Joyce Ladner
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Joyce Ladner
Author, sociologist, activist

Joyce Ladner, civil rights activist, author, civil servant and sociologist was born and raised in Mississippi. She attended Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi, where she and her sister, Dorie, organized civil rights protests alongside Medgar Evers Vernon Dahmer, Clyde Kennard and other students from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, including James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner, two of the three civil rights workers who were murdered in 1964 in Mississippi. While in college, she was arrested for trying to worship at the all-white Galloway Methodist Church and spent a week in jail. She served as SNCC field secretary, organizing with local communities in Jackson, Greenwood, and Canton, Mississippi as well as in Albany, Georgia. Dr. Ladner led a national campaign to get Clyde Kennard released from Parchman Penitentiary in 1963, where he had been imprisoned on trumped-up charges. She went to New York in 1963 and worked for Bayard Rustin helping to organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. After receiving her B.A. from Tougaloo College, she went on to obtain a PhD in sociology from Washington University, St. Louis. She was the first woman president of Howard University from 1994 to 1995, where she also served as professor of sociology from 1981 to 1998. Dr. Ladner has received numerous awards including the Distinguished Alumni Award from Washington University and honorary doctorates from Howard University and Tougaloo College. She was a senior fellow in at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. until her retirement in 2003. She was also a member of the United States Department of Justice's Advisory Council on Violence Against Women and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. When the city of Washington, DC went broke in 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the five member District of Columbia Financial Control Board (1995-98) whose job was to balance the city's budget. A prolific scholar, she has committed her life to improving the areas of diversity, multicultural education, higher education, urban issues, public policy, family and gender challenges, and child welfare. Dr. Ladner has authored, co-authored and edited eight books, including Tomorrow's Tomorrow: The Black Woman, The Ties That Bind: Timeless Values For African American Families and Mixed Families: Adopting Across Racial Boundaries.

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Charles E. Cobbb, Jr. Charles E. Cobb, Jr.
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Charles E. Cobb, Jr.
Visiting Professor, Brown University & Author

This Non-Violent Stuff Will Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible (2014)

Charles E. “Charlie” Cobb, Jr. was born in Washington, DC. He was a Mississippi field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1962-1967 working primarily in the Mississippi Delta. A founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists, Cobb was a foreign affairs reporter for National Public Radio and from 1985-1997 a member of the Editorial Staff of National Geographic magazine—the first black writer to become one of that magazine's staff writers.  In July 2008, Cobb was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame. He is the author of On the Road to Freedom, a Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail (Algonquin Books, 2008).  His forthcoming book, This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible (Basic Books, 2014), is the topic of his Library presentation.

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Wesley Hogan Wesley Hogan
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Wesley Hogan
Director, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University

Wesley Hogan is the Director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. She works on the history of youth social movements, African-American history, women’s history and oral history. Her book on SNCC, Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC and the Dream for a New America (2007)won the Lillian Smith Book Award, the Scott-Bills Memorial Prize for best work in peace history, and the Library of Virginia nonfiction literary award. She was the co-director of the Institute for the Study of Race Relations from 2006-2009, whose mission is to bring together community organizers, researchers, and young leaders to promote healthy communities. Between 2004-2008, she worked with the Algebra Project, the Young People’s Project and the Petersburg City Public Schools, and coordinated an oral history project of the civil rights movement in Petersburg. She is currently working on two oral histories of youth in twentieth-century freedom struggles.

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Ruth Feldstein Ruth Feldstein
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Ruth Feldstein
Associate Professor, Rutgers University

How It Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement: During the period that scholars have identified as the "long civil rights movement," many entertainers used their status as celebrities to support black freedom struggles.  Thousands upon thousands of people around the world never marched or boycotted; nevertheless, they engaged with black activism when they listened to certain music, bought certain albums, or watched certain films and television shows. How It Feels to Be Free shifts the focus beyond male leaders and “We Shall Overcome” as the ubiquitous background soundtrack of the movement, to tell the story of six black women performers and the critical work that they did, on stage and off.  In very different ways, Lena Horne, Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, and Cicely Tyson forged connections between popular culture and racial politics, and made gender central to a broader vision of liberation.  In their public performances and their political protests—and crucially, in the myriad instances when the lines between those blurred—they drew attention to unequal relationships between blacks and whites and to relationships between men and women.  In the 1940s, for example, the glamorous Lena Horne denounced segregation in Hollywood and claimed the right to be respectable and a "sex symbol."  Two decades later, in songs like Mississippi Goddam and Pirate Jenny, Nina Simone denounced racism and questioned nonviolence as a strategy in ways that emphasized female power and challenged standards of beauty associated with whiteness.

As these and other women made a range of political commitments, they rejected historical representations of black women as either sexualized "Jezebels" or subordinate "Mammy" figures.  Because they had fans around the world and were not all American-born, their activism had international dimensions.  The six women in How It Feels to Be Free were trailblazers, central to two transformative social movements of the twentieth century: the civil rights movement and second-wave feminism.

Ruth Feldstein teaches History and American Studies at Rutgers University, Newark.  She is most interested in relationships between race and gender and between culture and politics. Her recent book, the focus of her scholars talk at the Library, is entitled How It Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement (OUP, 2013). The book explores the central roles that leading female stars of stage and screen -- Lena Horne, Nina Simone, and Cicely Tyson, among others -- played in helping advance the goals of the freedom struggle. The book received the 2014 Benjamin Hooks National Book Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work on the American Civil Rights Movement and its Legacy.
In addition to How It Feels to Be Free, Feldstein is the author of Motherhood in Black and White: Race and Sex in American Liberalism, 1930-1965, "I Don’t Trust You Anymore": Nina Simone, Culture, and Black Activism in the 1960s, which won the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Prize, Best Article on  Black Women’s History in 2005, and other essays.

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Ingrid Monson Ingrid Monson
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Ingrid Monson
Professor of African & African American Studies, Harvard University

Ingrid Monson is Quincy Jones Professor of African American music, supported by the Time Warner Endowment, and Interim Dean of Arts and Humanities at Harvard University. She is former chair of the Music Department, a Guggenheim fellow, and a Walter Channing Cabot Fellow of Harvard University. Monson is the author of Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa (OUP, 2007), on which her Library presentation is based. Other books include Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction (University of Chicago Press, 1996), and an edited volume entitled The African Diaspora: A Musical Perspective (Garland/Routledge, 2000). She is currently working on a book about Malian balafonist Neba Solo. Her articles have appeared in Ethnomusicology, Critical Inquiry, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Black Music Research Journal, Women and Music, and several edited volumes.

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Maria Varela Maria Varela
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Maria Varela
Community Organizer, Educator, Writer and Photographer, New Mexico

Maria Varela is a community organizer, writer, photographer and occasional adjunct professor. She worked for the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee from 1963-1967 primarily in Alabama and Mississippi supporting organizers with educational materials and photographs. Varela edited and/or authored several photo-based publications and filmstrips ranging from voter education training manuals to organizing co-operatives and farm-worker unions. While working for SNCC, Maria also shot on assignment for Black Star Photo Agency. Varela was invited to northern New Mexico in 1968 to help start an agricultural cooperative and a community health clinic. She went on to support local sheep farmers and weavers to preserve their land, water and culture by creating culturally sustainable economic development ventures. In 1990 she was awarded a MacArthur fellowship for this work. From 1982 to the present she has continued her organizing work and also held adjunct professor positions at the University of New Mexico and The Colorado College. Some of her movement photography appeared in La Revista Porque (Mexico City) and numerous civil rights movement texts and photo exhibits. Two exhibits, Weíll Never Turn Back (1980) and This Light of Ours (2013-14), featuring her images and those of other activists in the struggle have traveled extensively across the US. She is co-author of Rural Environmental Planning for Sustainable Communities (Island Press) and a contributor to Across the Great Divide: Lessons in Collaborative Conservation (Island Press). Other published works include Hands on the Freedom Plow (University of Illinois Press), an anthology of women who worked with SNCC in the civil rights movement and A New Insurgency: The Port Huron Statement in Its Time and Ours (publication date: TBA). Maria lives in New Mexico with her husband Lorenzo ZķŮiga and daughter Sabina ZķŮiga-Varela.

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Lauren Araiza Lauren Araiza
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Lauren Araiza
Associate Professor, Denison University

Lauren Araiza teaches in the History Department at Denison University, Granville, Ohio. Her interests include 20th century U.S. social movements, comparative race and ethnicity, and the black freedom struggle in the American West. Dr. Araiza's first book, To March for Others: The Black Freedom Struggle and the United Farm Workers, was published in 2013 by the University of Pennsylvania Press. She has also published in the Journal of African American History and has contributed an essay to the edited collection, The Struggle in Black and Brown: African American and Mexican American Relations During the Civil Rights Era (University of Nebraska Press, 2011)

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Bill X Jennings Bill X Jennings
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Bill X Jennings
Community Activist, Archivist

Bill X Jennings: I was born in Anniston, Alabama in 1950, the son and first child to Carl and Julia Jennings. I experienced racism firsthand and early in my life – we black people were made to enter stores from the rear, there were black and white water fountains and we were treated like second-class citizens. My father served in the Navy and as result of that service he and our family were transferred to San Diego, when I was about six years old.
In my early development as a civil rights activist, I was influenced mainly by my mother, and by Olympian gold medal winner Tommie Smith, who took a world-famous, public stand against racism and for unity at the 1968 Games in Mexico. In the summer of 1968, I started college in Oakland. That same year, after six weeks of training, I became a member of the Black Panther Party (1968-1974) on September 8, my 18th birthday. I was attracted by the 10-point program, which identified and tried to address the basic needs of our community, including employment, housing, and health care. I was particularly drawn to the social programs of the BPP, and I worked on the very first Free Breakfast for School Children program in January 1969 at St. Augustine's Church in Oakland, California. Through this program, thousands of young people were able to eat breakfast before school each morning, merging the BPP's demands for nutrition and education.
Through my work with the Panthers I learned the importance of solidarity in all aspects of organizing. One example is the breakfast program we established in the Fruitvale district of Oakland. We placed it near the Del Monte canning plant, because many Fruitvale residents were Mexican American cannery workers; it was later taken over by members of the Brown Beret organization. We also often worked with the United Farm Workers organization to help them boycott stores carrying non-union produce.
During my early years in the BPP I helped run the East Oakland office, out of which we provided free food, legal aid, an escort service for seniors, a busing program to prisons to transport families of prisoners, and summer youth programs. I learned how to run a political campaign office when I was put in charge of Bobby Seale's campaign for mayor of Oakland in 1972. In 1995 I moved to Sacramento, joining a number of former members of the BPP who had moved there from the Bay area. We planned a successful celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the BPP, after which I started a newspaper and launched www.itsabouttimebpp.com External Link. Since it went live, there have been over one million visitors to the website. I am now the BPP historian and I collect information and materials published by the BPP from 1967-1982. The archive has now developed a huge collection of historical materials focusing on the BPP's newspapers and photos. My colleagues and I continue the work to this day.

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Gordon Mantler Gordon Mantler
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Gordon Mantler
Assistant Professor, George Washington University

Gordon Mantler specializes in the history and rhetoric of 20th century social justice movements and the African American and Latino experience in the United States, as well as oral history and the history of film. His first book and focus of his Library presentation, Power to the Poor: Black-Brown Coalition and the Fight for Economic Justice, 1960-1974, was published in 2013 as the inaugural volume in the Justice, Power, and Politics series at the University of North Carolina Press. He has received numerous awards, including the first annual Ronald T. and Gayla D. Farrar Media and Civil Rights History Award for the best article on the subject. His current book project focuses on Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s, and the development of the multiracial coalitions that brought Mayor Harold Washington to power in 1983.

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Carlos Montes Carlos Montes
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Carlos Montes
Community Organizer & Educator, California

Carlos Montes is a nationally respected leader in the Chicano, immigrant rights, and anti-war movements, who resides and works in Boyle Heights in east Los Angeles. While attending East Los Angeles College (ELAC) in 1967, Montes joined the Mexican American Student Association, founded the La Vida Nueva Chicano student group at ELAC and organized and fought to establish one of the first Chicano Studies departments in the country. He also took part in the founding of the Movimiento Estudiantil de Aztlan (MECHA) and helped found the original Brown Berets, a Chicano revolutionary group fighting for self-determination, and became the minister of information, the spokesperson for the group. He was a leader and organizer in the historic East LA Walkouts in March of 1968, which led to major reforms and changes in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
In 1968, Montes participated in the first National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference in Denver, Colorado, where the Plan Espiritual de Aztlan was formulated and the demand for self-determination for the Chicano Nation was popularized. He worked to forge alliances between the Brown Berets and the Black Panther Party and supported the Free Huey Newton political prisonerís campaign. He went on to help organize the first Chicano Moratorium in December 1969 against the war in Vietnam and also the historic National Chicano Moratorium on August 29, 1970, when more than 20,000 Chicanos protested the high casualty rates of Chicanos in the Vietnam War.
Montes has remained active over the years organizing several social justice, education reform, and anti-war campaigns and initiatives in his capacity as a member of the L.A. Chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO). These actions include the Clean Schools Campaign in Boyle Heights in the 1990s and a mass protest against the racist, anti-immigrant California Proposition 187 in 2004. Also in 2004, as a field organizer for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 660, he fought for workers rights in the L.A. County Health Department and helped found the SEIU International Latino Caucus. Assigned to the LAC - USC Medical Center, he organized Black, Latino and Asian members to unite and work together to improve working conditions. He currently serves as President of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council.

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Felipé Hinojosa Felipé Hinojosa
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Felipé Hinojosa
Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University

Felipé Hinojosa received his PhD in history from the University of Houston in 2009 and has published journal articles on Race, the Chicano movement and the War on Poverty in Texas, Latino/a religion, and the relationship between Ethnic studies and Religious studies. His teaching and research interests include Latina/o-Chicana/o studies, American religion, social movements, gender, and comparative race and ethnicity. Hinojosa is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships such as the Hispanic Theological Initiative Dissertation Fellowship and a First Book Grant for Minority Scholars from the Louisville Institute. Hinojosaís book, Latino Mennonites: Civil Rights, Faith, and Evangelical Culture (Johns Hopkins University Press) was published in 2014.

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Richard Baldwin Cook Richard Baldwin Cook
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Richard Baldwin Cook
Community Organizer, National Farm Worker Ministry (former director)

Richard Baldwin Cook, a 1970 graduate of Union Theological Seminary, New York City, was ordained a Southern Baptist minister. In 1970-71, Richard worked for a year and a half as director of the Cumberland County Migrant Ministry in South Jersey. This stint led directly to California and a decade on the staff of the National Farm Worker Ministry (NFWM), an ecumenical agency related to the National Council of Churches, which supported the organizing activities of the United Farm Workers (UFW). During the 1970s, Richardís primary NFWM assignments were staff supervision and interpreting farm labor issues to Protestant denominations by way of meetings and written materials. Within the UFW, Richard's work included coordinating consumer boycott activities in Missouri, directing a strike of grape workers in Arizona, and working in the office of UFW President Cesar Chavez as translator of Spanish-language letters and other materials. Richardís assignments carried him, and often his family, to residencies in Arizona, Missouri, Florida, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and the Coachella, San Joaquin, and Salinas Valleys of California. In 1981, Richard was made director of the NFWM, but resigned in the fall of 1982, due to increasing tensions within the UFW. These internal struggles and their effects on UFW and NFWM staff will be a focus of Richardís presentation. Today, Richard is retired and living in Cockeysville, MD, with his wife, Barbara.

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Guha Shankar Guha Shankar
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Guha Shankar
Folklife Specialist, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Guha Shankar is a Folklife Specialist in the American Folklife Center, at the Library of Congress.  At the Center, he serves as Director of the national Civil Rights History Project. His other responsibilities at the Library involve multi-media production, developing standards for digital media creation and preservation, developing public programs for educational outreach (symposia, lectures and events), and teaching cultural documentation methods for academic and community-based initiatives. His research interests and publications include issues and challenges in indigenous intangible cultural heritage, diasporic community formations in the Caribbean, ethnographic media, visual representation, and performance studies. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Austin in 2003, from the Department of Anthropology, with a concentration in Folklore and Public Culture and a B.A., from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1982, with concentrations in Radio, Television, and Motion Pictures and Political Science.

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Catalina Gomez Catalina Gomez
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Catalina Gomez
Program Coordinator, Hispanic Division, Library of Congress

Catalina Gomez was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia. She now lives in Washington, D.C., and works as a program coordinator in the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress. At the Library of Congress she coordinates cultural and literary programs for the Hispanic Division, and she assists the curator of the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape. She has a strong passion for literature, cultural studies, and the visual arts. Gomez earned her Bachelor's degree in visual arts and Latin American literature from the University of California, San Diego and holds a Master's degree in visual culture from the University of Barcelona, Spain.

 

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