Published: Jan. 31, 2013

Series brings civil rights leaders to MSU stage

Contact(s): Andy McGlashen Media Communications office: (517) 355-2281

Michigan State University will celebrate Black History Month with public addresses by an actress and writer whose parents helped create the civil rights movement, an activist who taught protestors to oppose segregation through nonviolent resistance, and a historian who helped write a key speech by Martin Luther King Jr.

The 13th annual “Slavery to Freedom: An American Odyssey” visiting faculty lecture series, organized by the College of Osteopathic Medicine, will feature presentations by Donzaleigh Abernathy, Vincent Harding and James Lawson on Feb. 7, Feb. 14 and Feb. 28.

All programs are at 5 p.m.; receptions follow the presentations. In addition to making public presentations, the scholars dedicate time to teaching MSU students on campus. This year’s schedule follows.

  • Donzaleigh Abernathy, Feb. 7 in Kellogg Center Big Ten A: Abernathy was born in the midst of the civil rights era to Juanita and Ralph David Abernathy, who created with their best friend Martin Luther King Jr. a social movement that changed the course of American history. An actress, author and playwright, she won the 2012 Tanne Foundation Award for her play “Birmingham Sunday,” earned praise from critic Roger Ebert for her performance in the film “Gods and Generals” and has appeared in several television shows and movies.
  • Vincent Harding, Feb. 14 in Wharton Center Pasant Theatre: Harding is perhaps best known as the man who crafted the original draft for Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 speech opposing America’s role in the Vietnam War. At King’s urging, Harding and his late wife moved to Atlanta in 1961 to join the civil rights movement. They established a center there committed to teaching nonviolence. Harding helped organize and served as director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, developed the Institute of the Black World and co-founded the Veterans of Hope Project. A major historian of the African American struggle for freedom, Harding is the author of several books and served as academic adviser for the PBS documentary “Eyes on the Prize.”
  • James Lawson, Feb 28. in Kellogg Center Big Ten A: The son and grandson of Methodist ministers, Lawson received his preacher’s license in 1947 and became a student of nonviolence. In 1951 he was sentenced to three years in prison for refusing the Korean War draft, was paroled after 13 months and spent the next three years living and teaching in India. After returning to the United States and enrolling in the Oberlin School of Theology in Ohio, Lawson decided he could no longer sit on the sidelines of the civil rights movement. He moved to Nashville, where he entered Vanderbilt Divinity School and taught volunteers how to organize sit-ins and other nonviolent direct actions that forced America to confront the immorality of segregation.

All presentations are free and open to the public. For a list of sponsors and more information, click here.

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