Lecture and Performance Series, Spring 2014

"All that I have said boils down to the point of affirming that mankind's survival is dependent upon man's ability to solve the problems of racial injustice, poverty, and war."  — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1964

After the Supreme Court's ruling on the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954, the long struggle African Americans waged for equality in the United States gained legislative momentum. Characterized by non-violent protest and civil disobedience, the movement eventually resulted in transformative social and legislative changes, most notably the 1964 watershed passage of the Civil Rights Act. But, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said in his December 1964 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, "The problem is far from solved. We still have a long, long way to go before the dream of freedom is a reality...."

50 Years Later

The aim of The Griot Institute's The Civil Rights Movement: Fifty Years Later series is to offer the University and the local community an opportunity to examine the histories of the American civil rights movement, in an effort to extend the conversation and to acknowledge and define the necessity and current trajectories of the primary goal of the movement: to enable the US to fulfill its articulated principles, guaranteeing equality to all of its citizens. 

Series Events

Film Screening: "The Abolitionists"
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center, 3rd floor

A small group of moral reformers in the 1830s launched one of the most ambitious social movements imaginable: the immediate emancipation of millions of African Americans held in bondage, at a time when slavery was one of the most powerful economic and political forces in the United States. "The Abolitionists" was produced and directed by Rob Rapley and Sharon Grimberg, executive producer for American Experience, WGBH.

Bernice Johnson-ReagonLecture/Discussion: Bernice Johnson-Reagon
Weis Center for the Performing Arts

For more than a half-century, Bernice Johnson-Reagon has been a major cultural voice for freedom and justice; singing, teaching-speaking out against racism and organized inequities of all kinds. A child of Southwest Georgia, Dr. Reagon was born into the struggle against racism in America. Dr. Reagon's life and work support the concept of community based culture which emphasizes an enlarged capacity for mutual respect.

Perhaps no individual today better illustrates the transformative power and instruction of traditional African American music and cultural history than Bernice Johnson Reagon, who has excelled equally in the realms of scholarship, composition, and performance. She is Professor Emeritus of History at American University, Curator Emeritus at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, and served as the 2002-2004 Cosby Chair of Fine Arts at Spelman College (her alma mater) in Atlanta, GA. Two of her major works are seminal to the study of this tradition: Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions and Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery.

Dr. Reagon has served as music consultant, composer, and performer for several film and video projects, including the award-winning Eyes on the Prize, the Emmy-winning We Shall Overcome, and the feature film Beloved. In 2003, she created the music and libretto for the Robert Wilson production, The Temptation of St. Anthony, which premiered in Germany. In this work, Reagon's music drew upon her intimate and long-term study and performance of African American music spanning 19th and 20th century genres.

Film Screening: "Slavery by Another Name"
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center, 3rd floor

Even as slavery ended in the south after the Civil War, new forms of forced labor kept thousands of African Americans in bondage until the onset of World War II. "Slavery by Another Name" is based on the 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same title by Douglas Blackmon. Produced and directed by Sam Pollard. Catherine Allan, executive producer for Twin Cities Public Television. Douglas A. Blackmon, co-executive producer. A production of TPT National Productions, in association with Two Dollars & A Dream, Inc.

Barry LongBarry Long: Freedom Songs
Campus Theatre

Barry Long was the inaugural Samuel Williams Professor of Music at Bucknell University where he currently directs the jazz ensemble and teaches coursework in jazz and music theory. He was the first to receive a doctoral degree (DMA) in Jazz Studies from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY and has studied and performed with such artists as Kenny Wheeler, Bob Brookmeyer, John Clayton, Eliane Elias, Benny Carter, Jim McNeely, and Dave Stahl. His compositional credits include honors from the Jazz Composer's Alliance as well as commissions for Clark Terry and numerous high school and collegiate ensembles. Long's research activities include publications for Oxford, McFarland Press, IAJE, VH1, and an upcoming jazz appreciation text for Prentice Hall; grants from the NEH and Brubeck Foundation; and international presentations at conferences on jazz, popular music, and race.

His current scholarship studies the intersections of jazz and social justice, particularly during the Civil Rights movement. Conference papers and forthcoming articles include work on Amiri Baraka's jazz and spoken word projects, the uncanny similarities between John Coltrane's Alabama and Martin Luther King's eulogy for the victims of the Birmingham church bombing, and the spiritual signification present within Mahalia Jackson's and Duke Ellington's collaborative work. A performative project, Freedom in the Air, incorporates iconic Civil Rights photography by Charles Moore, James Karales, and others with spontaneously improvised reactions to their powerful images.

Jonathan Rieder Lecture/Discussion: Jonathan Rieder
Bucknell Hall

Jonathan Rieder is professor of sociology at Barnard College and a member of the graduate faculty at Columbia University. He has previously taught at Yale and Swarthmore. He is the author of The Word of the Lord Is upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn against Liberalism. He edited The Fractious Nation: Unity and Division in Contemporary American Life and was a cofounding editor of Common Quest:The Magazine of Black- Jewish Relations.

His latest work, Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation, was described by Booklist as "A sparkling reconsideration of the ‘Letter' ... A slim volume that packs plenty of punch, Gospel of Freedom is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the civil rights movement, King, and America itself."

He has been a regular commentator on TV and radio, a contributor to The New York Times Book Review, and a contributing editor for The New Republic. He has been a Member and a Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, and been awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton, The Wilson Center, the National Humanities Center, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. He is currently working on a book about the rise of contemporary crossover culture and the transformation of rhythm and blues into soul music.

Film Screening: "Freedom Riders"
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center, 3rd floor

The Freedom Rides of 1961 were a pivotal moment in the long Civil Rights struggle that redefined America. Based on Raymond Arsenault's recent book, "Freedom Riders" is a documentary film offering an inside look at the brave band of activists who challenged segregation in the Deep South. Produced and directed by Stanley Nelson. Mark Samels, executive producer for American Experience, WGBH.

Sonia Sanchez Lecture/Discussion: Sonia Sanchez
Bucknell Hall

Dr. Sonia Sanchez speaks internationally on black culture and literature, women's liberation, peace, and racial justice. Finding her voice in poetry, Sanchez evolved from a shy child with a stutter into a force of the Black Power movement of the 1960s. She was also in the forefront of the Black Studies movement and taught the first university course offered in the United States on black women.

A prolific author, Sanchez has written more than 16 books, including Homecoming, We a BaddDDD People, Love Poems, I've Been a Woman, A Sound Investment and Other Stories, Homegirls and Handgrenades, Under a Soprano Sky, Wounded in the House of a Friend, Does Your House Have Lions?, Like the Singing Coming off the Drums, Shake Loose My Skin, and Morning Haiku. She has also published numerous plays, including Black Cats and Uneasy Landings and I'm Black When I'm Singing, I'm Blue When I Ain't. The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review is an academic journal devoted to critical examination of her work.

Sanchez is the recipient of numerous honors for her writing and service, including the Lucretia Mott Award, the American Book Award for Homegirls and Handgrenades, the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Humanities, the Peace and Freedom Award from the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (W.I.L.P.F.), a PEW Fellowship in the Arts (1992-1993), and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award, among many others.

Ernest GreenLecture/Discussion: Ernest Green
Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center, 3rd floor
(rescheduled from February due to weather)

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, September 22, 1941, Green earned his high school diploma from Central High School in Little Rock. He and eight other black students were the first to integrate Central High, following the 1954 US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that declared racial segregation illegal. This group of pioneers became known as the "Little Rock Nine." Green received bachelors and masters degrees from Michigan State University. He also has received honorary doctorates from Michigan State University, Tougaloo College, and Central State University.

Ernest G. Green is presently the Managing Director of Public Finance for Lehman Brothers' Washington, DC office. Since joining Lehman Brothers in 1987, Green has served as senior investment banker on transactions for such key clients as the City of New York, State of New York, and the City of Chicago. He has also been appointed as chairman of the African Development Foundation by President Clinton, and chairman of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Capital Financing Advisory Board by Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley.

The recipient of numerous awards, Green was the youngest recipient of the NAACP's Spingard Medal, at the age of seventeen. On November 9, 1999, President Clinton presented Green, and the rest of the "Little Rock Nine," the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the United States gives to civilians, for outstanding bravery during the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957.

Film Screening: "The Loving Story"
Willard Smith Library

"The Loving Story" is the moving account of Richard and Mildred Loving, who were arrested in 1958 for violating Virginia's ban on interracial marriage. Their struggle culminated in a landmark Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia (1967) which overturned anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. Directed by Nancy Buirski; produced by Nancy Buirski and Elisabeth Haviland James. A co-production of Augusta Films and HBO Films. Distributed by Icarus Films.

Kathleen Cleaver Lecture/Discussion: Kathleen Cleaver
Bucknell Hall

Kathleen Neal Cleaver has spent most of her life advocating for human rights. Since 2000, she has served as the co-director of the Atlanta-based Human Rights Research Fund, part of a network of anti-racist organizations engaged in documenting violations of the human rights of US citizens who challenge the racist and military policies within the United States. Cleaver is currently a senior lecturer in the African American Studies Department at Yale and holds an appointment as a senior lecturer and research fellow at Emory University School of Law.

Cleaver began challenging racial injustice young. She dropped out of Barnard College in 1966 to work full time with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) where she served in the campus program. From 1967 to 1971, she was the Black Panther Party's communications secretary and the first female member of their central committee. After spending years in exile with Eldridge Cleaver in Algeria and France, she returned to the United States in late 1975.

She graduated summa cum laude with a BA in history from Yale College in 1984 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After receiving a JD from Yale Law School in 1989, Cleaver became an associate at the New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Then she clerked for the late Judge A. Leon Higginbotham of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. She has worked to free imprisoned freedom fighters such as Geronimo ji-Jaga Pratt and Mumia Abu-Jamal. 

Cleaver's writings have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. She edited a collection of writings by her former husband Eldridge Cleaver titled Target Zero: A Life in Writing. Her latest work is a memoir titled Memories of Love and War (2013).

Freedom Riders Exhibit

Bertrand Library

Inspired by visions of social revolution, the self-proclaimed "Freedom Riders" challenged the mores of a racially segregated society by performing a disarmingly simple act: traveling together in small interracial groups, and sitting where they pleased on buses and trains. Demanding unrestricted access to terminal restaurants and waiting rooms, they were met with bitter racism, mob violence, and imprisonment along the way. But their courage and sacrifice over eight months in 1961 changed America forever.

This exhibition was created in partnership with WGBH Boston / The American Experience, which developed a major television special of the same name to be aired in spring 2014, and celebrates the 50th anniversary of this seminal moment in civil rights history in the summer of 1961. The exhibition will be on display in Bucknell's Bertrand Library in conjunction with the Griot Institute's Civil Rights series.

Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle

Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities that uses the power of documentary films to encourage community discussion of America's civil rights history. NEH has partnered with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to develop programmatic and support materials for the sites.

The Griot Institute of Africana Studies, in partnership with Bertrand Library and CSREG, is one of 473 institutions across the country awarded a set of four films chronicling the history of the civil rights movement. The powerful documentaries — The Abolitionists, Slavery by Another Name, Freedom Riders, and The Loving Story — include dramatic scenes of incidents in the 150-year effort to achieve equal rights for all. Freedom Riders received an Emmy in 2012, and The Loving Story and The Abolitionists were nominated for Emmys in 2013.

Film screenings will be included in the Griot's Spring Lecture Series, The Civil Rights Movement: Fifty Years Later. These films chronicle the long and sometimes violent effort to achieve the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans. We at The Griot are pleased to have received a grant from NEH to provide programming around these films.