February 23, 2006 Patricia Sullivan to talk about Civil Rights Activist Virginia Foster Durr on March 30

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Robert Saladini (202) 707-2692

Patricia Sullivan will discuss her book “Freedom Writer: Virginia Foster Durr, Letters from The Civil Rights Years” at the Library of Congress at noon on Thursday, March 30, in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.

The event, which is sponsored by the Library’s John W. Kluge Center, is free and open to the public; no reservations are required.

As a privileged white Southern woman, Virginia Foster Durr (1903-1999) was an unlikely yet monumental champion of civil rights. “Freedom Writer: Virginia Foster Durr, Letters from The Civil Rights Years” is a collection of her letters during three decades of struggle for racial equality. In 1951, returning to her native Alabama after a 21-year absence, Durr was deeply affronted by the same unchecked racism she recalled from her childhood. To help understand the South and battle her sense of isolation, Durr wrote hundreds of letters—humorous, sharp and observant—to her friends outside the region, among them Eleanor Roosevelt, Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, journalist Jessica Mitford and historian C. Vann Woodward.

Durr often wrote from the movement's front lines—the sit-ins, freedom rides and student protests. Moving in the same circles as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and others, Durr often put her life on the line as a bridge between blacks and whites during dangerous times. Countless details of this personal journey, and the shifting political landscape from which it unfolded, found their way into Durr's correspondence.

Sullivan, compiler and editor of the book originally published on the 100th anniversary of Durr's birth and now available in paperback, is a Kluge fellow at the Library of Congress and an associate professor of history and African-American studies at the University of South Carolina. She is the author of “Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in The New Deal Era” and is currently writing a history of the NAACP.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library established the Kluge Center in 2000. The center brings leading scholars together with key Washington policymakers to discuss important world issues, drawing on the Library’s incomparable collections. For further information, visit www.loc.gov/kluge.


PR 06-050
ISSN 0731-3527