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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

June – September 2015

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

Program Descriptions & Biographies

Symposium - September 10

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Walter Echo-Hawk

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Walter Echo-Hawk (Pawnee)
Of Counsel, Crowe & Dunlevy
Chief Justice, Supreme Court, Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma

The 'Human Rights Era' of Federal Indian Law: This presentation reviews the Indian tribes' great social movement from 1950 to the present date. The discussion will compare Black America's Civil Rights Movement for equality under the law with the Indian self-determination goals of the Tribal Sovereignty Movement in the modern era. Finally, it will examine the future of the Indian social movement, as it enters a new human rights era in the 21st century.

Walter Echo-Hawk (Pawnee) is a Native American speaker, author, and attorney. Throughout his distinguished legal career, he has worked to protect the legal, political, property, cultural, and human rights of Indian tribes and Native peoples. An articulate and versed indigenous rights activist, Echo-Hawk delivers keynote speeches and lectures on a wide variety of indigenous topics, involving Native arts and cultures, indigenous history, federal Indian law, religious freedom, environmental protection, Native American cosmology, and human rights. He makes keynote appearances at important events throughout Indian Country and around the world. Over the years, he has offered major speeches in South Africa, Turkey, Egypt, Qatar, Philippines, Fiji, Canada, and throughout the United States. His last book lecture tour for his groundbreaking book, In the Courts of the Conqueror: The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided (2010) took him to 28 states.

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LaDonna Harris

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LaDonna Harris (Comanche)
President, Americans for Indian Opportunity

LaDonna Harris is President of Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO), and has influenced the agendas of the civil rights, feminist, environmental and world peace movements over the course of her life and career.  Harris was raised in Indian country near the small town of Walters, Oklahoma during the Great Depression by her maternal grandparents.  She began her career in public service as the wife of US Senator, Fred Harris, becoming the first wife of a Senator to testify before a Congressional committee. She was instrumental in the return of Taos Blue Lake to the people of Taos Pueblo in 1970 and the granting of federal recognition to the Menominee of Wisconsin in 1973. She has presided over AIO since the 1970's; AIO catalyzes and facilitates culturally appropriate initiatives that enrich the lives of indigenous peoples. Harris also helped to found some of today’s leading national Indian organizations including the National Indian Housing Council, Council of Energy Resource Tribes, National Tribal Environmental Council, and National Indian Business Association. In 1994, Vice President Al Gore recognized Harris as a leader in the area of telecommunications in his remarks at the White House Tribal Summit and Ron Brown, then-Secretary of Commerce, appointed her to the Advisory Council on the National Information Infrastructure.  During her many years in public service she has served on the following Presidential Commissions: National Council on Indian Opportunity (President Johnson); White House Fellows Commission (President Nixon); U.S. Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year (President Ford); Commission on Mental Health (President Carter). She has also served as US Representative to the OAS Inter-American Indigenous Institute and UNESCO.

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Malinda Maynor LoweryMalinda Maynor Lowery

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Malinda Maynor Lowery (Lumbee)
Associate Professor, UNC Chapel Hill

Reflections on Lumbee Indians and Civil Rights: When Lumbee Indians ambushed and routed the Ku Klux Klan in 1958 in North Carolina, that event might have appeared a culminating victory in our civil rights struggle. As it turned out, that moment marked only the beginning of a long civil rights movement and to this day many promises of the past struggle remain elusive. Down through the years, Lumbees have combined grassroots protests, legal remedies, and the pursuit of federal recognition as strategic actions in the struggle for civil rights and justice.

Malinda Maynor Lowery is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. She was born in Robeson County, NC, but raised in Durham. She is a historian and documentary film producer who now lives in Durham with her daughter Lydia. She is an Associate Professor of History at UNC-Chapel Hill and Director of the Southern Oral History Program. Her first book, Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation (2010), was published by UNC Press and has won several awards. She is currently working on The Lumbee Indians: An American Struggle, a survey of Lumbee history from 1521 to the present for a general audience. Films she has produced include A Chef’s Life (2013, 2014), Private Violence (2014), In the Light of Reverence (2001), Real Indian (1996), and Sounds of Faith (1997). 

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Tim Tingle

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Tim Tingle (Oklahoma Choctaw)
Story-teller, author

The Disappearance of Skullyville: As often occurs in justice-of-the night events, American Indians have fallen beneath the powerful engine of the lawless. In 1896, the engine was a westbound train, scheduled to stop in Skullyville, Oklahoma. Once a vibrant Choctaw community, Skullyville is now home to the Choctaw National Cemetery, and little else. With a brief reading and oral story-telling from House of Purple Cedar (2015), Tingle explores the reasons behind the town's disappearance.

Tim Tingle is an award-winning author and storyteller who has been featured at festivals in forty-two states, including five appearances at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, TN, and the American Folklife Center's public program series (2011). He has completed eleven speaking tours for the U.S. Department of Defense, performing stories to children of military personnel stationed in Germany. Tingle's roots inform his work: his great-great grandfather, John Carnes, walked the Trail of Tears in 1835, and his paternal grandmother attended a series of rigorous Indian boarding schools in the early 1900’s. In the early 90’s, responding to a scarcity of Choctaw lore, Tingle began collecting tribal stories in his home state, and went on to a Masters Degree in English Literature at the University of Oklahoma (2003), with a focus on American Indian studies. His first book, Walking the Choctaw Road was published in 2005 and followed by Crossing Bok Chitto (2005), his first book for young readers; the latter garnered over twenty state and national awards, including Best Children’s Book from the American Indian Library Association, and was an Editor’s Choice in the New York Times Book Review. He wrote and produced the documentary film, "The Choctaw Lighthorsemen," a historical look at the tribal police force, which premiered in 2011. His latest book, House of Purple Cedar (2013), tells the story of a Choctaw family in 1896 Oklahoma, and their struggles against the forces of big-boom railroad interests and white supremacy.

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Letitia Chambers

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Letitia Chambers, PhD
Chairman of the Board, ATALM

Letitia Chambers, the symposium moderator, is Chairman of the Board for ATALM and recently retired as the President and CEO of the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she holds a doctorate in educational research and curriculum development from Oklahoma State University. Dr. Chambers has previously held senior management positions in the private sector, government, and education.  In 1981, she founded Chambers Associates Inc., a public policy consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., where she served as President and CEO. Subsequently, she was Managing Director at Navigant Consulting, where she oversaw initiatives of the firm related to both public policy and management consulting. At the national and international level, Dr. Chambers served as the U.S. Representative to the United Nations General Assembly, beginning in 1996, and made significant contributions as a member of the Management and Budget Committee of the General Assembly. From 2004 to 2005, she headed up the system of higher education for the state of New Mexico where she worked to revamp and reform key aspects of the system. Dr. Chambers has served on corporate boards, particularly in the financial sector, and on numerous educational and philanthropic boards, including the Institute of American Indian Arts and Culture (IAIA). She continues to serve on the advisory board of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. In all these endeavors, she has sought to preserve and enhance Indian arts and cultures, improve educational opportunities for Indian students, and broaden public appreciation for Native contributions.

Series Participants

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Photo of Ken BilbyKen Bilby
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Ken Bilby
Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution

Memorialization and Justice as an Ancestral Imperative: Two American Cases: The role of orally transmitted ancestral memory in ongoing struggles to overcome past injustices is proving critical in the struggle for human and civil rights and justice. In this context, the presentation reflects on two path-breaking cases of recent public memorialization: the Moiwana Massacre, which took place in the Republic of Suriname, South America, in 1986, and the Sand Creek Massacre, which occurred in the U.S. territory of Colorado in 1864. At Moiwana, an undetermined number of defenseless Ndyuka Maroon civilians [officially at least 39], mostly women and children, were killed or wounded by the Surinamese national army; at Sand Creek, more than 150 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, many of them women and children, were killed by Colorado volunteer regiments of the U.S. Cavalry. These traumas span time and space (a century and the North and South American continents), involve distinctive political relationships between nation-states and indigenous communities, and have received official recognition in their respective countries only in the last decade or so. While the stories of these two events are very different in many ways, they are also comparable in others. In both cases, orally transmitted memories and clashing cultural concepts play an important role in public representations of traumatic historical events, and these will be discussed in relation to the process of memorialization and the quest for justice. The presentation explores the important implications of both cases for public understandings of the inter-related concepts of indigeneity, human rights, and civil rights in the future.

Kenneth Bilby is Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution.  He has taught at Bard College, Regis University, and the University of Colorado.  An anthropologist, ethnomusicologist, and cultural historian, he has carried out fieldwork in various parts of the Caribbean and in West Africa.  His most recent book, Words of Our Mouth, Meditations of Our Heart: Originators of Jamaican Popular Music (2015), traces the birth and development of one of the world’s most influential contemporary musical traditions in the words of its original creators. His earlier book, True-Born Maroons (2005) — a study of Jamaican Maroon oral narratives and historical consciousness based on fieldwork spanning nearly three decades—won the American Historical Association’s Wesley-Logan Prize. Enacting Power: The Criminalization of Obeah in the Anglophone Caribbean, 1760-2011, which he co-authored with Jerome Handler (2012), examines the use of state power and colonial legislation over two and a half centuries to suppress African Caribbean forms of religiosity (and thus freedom of conscience) throughout the British West Indies.   He was was one of the first to interview survivors of the Moiwana Massacre in Suriname, South America on November 29, 1986.  In 2004, when some of these survivors finally succeeded in having their case against the state of Suriname heard before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, he served as an expert witness for the plaintiffs.  Some three decades after the massacre occurred, he continues to be haunted by the testimonies of these survivors, and wonders how to write about such events.

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Emilye Crosby
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Emilye Crosby
Professor of History, Coordinator of Black Studies, SUNY- Geneseo; Research Scholar & Interviewer, Civil Rights History Project, LC & NMAAHC

Teaching the Civil Rights Movement from the Bottom-Up Fifty Years After the Voting Rights Act: What most people know about the Civil Rights Movement comes through a top-down lens that focuses almost exclusively on visible leaders like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and major legislation, like the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This approach misses much of what is important about the modern Civil Rights Movement, including grassroots organizing, the slow, dangerous work often initiated by the young people of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, founded by the college students who initiated the sit-in movement); the crucial role of “ordinary people” in insisting on their citizenship rights and pushing for a broader “freedom"; and the reality of armed self-defense that was often found in conjunction with voter registration in rural communities. Working with SNCC field secretaries, Black citizens increasingly challenged white supremacy (whether cloaked in a Klan hood or a sheriff’s badge), creating a groundswell that ultimately convinced the president, Congress, and a majority of the American people of the need for stronger voting rights protections.
This presentation will highlight bottom-up movement history and the ways it introduces students to a wider range of tactics and to a history that begins before the big marches and extends after the passage of landmark legislation. This angle demonstrates the importance and power of taking action, even when there is no immediate tangible success, and perhaps most importantly, it highlights the role of “unexpected actors.” In particular, women are almost entirely invisible in the top-down narrative, yet they dominated the movement numerically and were essential participants, strategists, organizers, and speakers. Bottom-up history expands and changes our understanding of the movement, including who and what was important. Fifty years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act the lessons from bottom-up history are more important than ever.

Emilye Crosby is Professor of History and coordinator of Black Studies at SUNY Geneseo. She is the author of A Little Taste of Freedom: The Black Freedom Struggle in Claiborne County, Mississippi (University of North Carolina Press, 205) and editor of Civil Rights History from the Ground Up (University of Georgia Press, 2011). Her article "White Privilege, Black Burden: Lost Opportunities and Deceptive Narratives in School Desegregation in Claiborne County, Mississippi," was published in the Oral History Review and awarded the Oral History Associationís 2013 article award. She is currently working on a book-length project, Anything I Was Big Enough To Do: Women and Gender in SNCC, which has received support from the James Weldon Johnson Institute at Emory University, the National Humanities Center, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Crosby has been recognized with many awards, including the Chancellorís Award for Teaching, the Chancellorís Award for Service, the Harter Mentoring Award, the Spencer Roemer Supported Professorship, and the Presidentís Award for Scholarship.

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Photo of Robin Hamilton Robin Hamilton
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Robin Hamilton
Filmmaker, Silver Spring, MD

This Little Light of Mine: The Legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer (2015) is a documentary short that explores the life of an impoverished sharecropper who became a powerhouse in the battle for the right to vote in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement. Along the way, Mrs. Hamer survived a vicious beating in a county jail, attacks against her family, and death threats.  Central to this film is Mrs. Hamer's testimony during the Democratic National Convention in New Jersey in 1964, when she exposed the savage treatment African Americans in Mississippi faced when fighting for equality and the right to vote.  
The film incorporates archival photos and speeches of Mrs. Hamer, along with recorded interviews with her daughter, and others who knew and worked with her, including activists in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), a group Mrs. Hamer helped create and organize in 1964. The MFDP's challenge of the all-white, segregationist Mississippi Democratic Party's delegation as legal representatives of all Mississippi citizens at the Democratic convention that year had enormous consequences for voting rights in the US.  The dramatic actions of the MFDP and Mrs. Hamer’s eloquent moral appeal to the nation are credited with integrating future delegations and adding critical momentum to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  This Little Light of Mine: The Legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer not only reveals the life of a remarkable woman, but enforces the importance of civic engagement and gives proof that every voice matters. (Watch trailer on Youtube: This Little Light of Mine: The Legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer)

Robin Hamilton is a journalist and filmmaker whose work has taken her all over the country and around the world.  She was drawn to journalism while in college at Duke University, when she was writing her senior paper about the desegregation of Durham.  During that time, she learned of Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer in a course about women in the Civil Rights Movement, with no realization that she would one day make a film on Mrs. Hamer.  Post graduation, she pursued a career as a television journalist and worked for network affiliates around the country, including Florida, New York, Boston, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C.  While at the Tribune television affiliate in Washington, DC, Hamilton hosted several award-winning documentaries about black history in the nation's capital. She has an MA in broadcast journalism (New York University) and an MPA with a focus in policy and media (John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University). This is her directorial debut.

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Photo of Gary MayGary May
(photo: Bill Moyers & Company)

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Gary May
Professor Emeritus of History, University of Delaware

Selma, the Voting Rights Act, and Reel History: August 2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark civil rights public law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and language, among other provisions. The events leading up to the passage of the law were highly charged and far-flung, with battles being waged among and between the presidency, the federal legislature, state governments, and critically, front line activists who confronted segregationists in the streets of Southern cities to obtain basic rights for African Americans. Hollywood finally focused its attention on those historic events in the film, Selma (2014). The film purports to tell the background story of one of the most dramatic and critical episodes in that protracted battle, the Voting Rights Campaign in Alabama, which culminated in the famous march from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery in the spring of 1965. Selma has received both praise and criticism for its depiction of those extraordinary times and its portrayal of prominent individuals, such as Dr. Martin Luther King and President Lyndon Johnson. Dr. May had several conversations with Ava DuVernay, Selma's director, as she worked on the film and Bending Toward Justice was distributed to members of the cast. Nevertheless, Dr. May finds himself among several scholars who think the film seriously flawed. His talk explores the significance and continuing importance of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, includes a critique of how the stories behind the Act are framed in the Hollywood lens and raises questions as to what such re-presentations mean for teaching and learning about history.

The talk is preceded by a screening of clips from the forthcoming documentary film, Bridging History: Selma and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, produced by the Office of the Historian, US House of Representatives. The film tells the story of the Voting Rights Campaign of 1965 in Alabama and how the events in Selma and Montgomery led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act on Capitol Hill. It features oral history interviews with Representatives John Lewis, John Dingell, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, along with archival photographs from the Glen Pearcy collection at the American Folklife Center.

Gary May is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Delaware who specializes in American political and diplomatic history from 1945 onward. His recently updated book, Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Duke University Press, 2014) examines the origins of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, its impact on American democracy, and makes a case for its preservation as an instrument to fight modern voter suppression movements. It was cited by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in her eloquent dissent in Shelby County v. Holder and reviewed favorably by former Justice John Paul Stevens in The New York Review of Books. Invited to appear on Bill Moyers and Company, Moyers told Professor May: "You have written a book that could change this country again, if every citizen read it." His previous books include China Scapegoat: The Diplomatic Ordeal of John Carter Vincent (1979), Un-American Activities: The Trials of William Remington (1994), The Informant: The FBI, the Ku Klux Klan and the Murder of Viola Liuzzo (2005), and John Tyler in the American Presidents Series edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Sean Wilentz (2008). May is a member of the Harvard-based Scholars Strategy Network, and winner of the Allan Nevins Prize of the Society of American Historians.

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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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