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Pieces of Eight

MLK day
ECU Provost James LeRoy Smith (left) joined members of the ECU community in a candlelight vigil and march held Jan. 15 to honor Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo by Marc J. Kawanishi)

Vigil, March Honor King

In observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Jan. 15, ECU held a candlelight vigil and march at College Hill, followed by a musical performance at Hendrix Theatre. “A Celebration of the Civil Rights Years through Song” was presented by the ECU Gospel Choir, directed by Dorothea Taylor with special guest Richard Banks of North Carolina Central University.

Additional MLK events included a visit by documentary filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, who spoke Jan. 11 at ECU’s Mendenhall Student Center. Beauchamp’s work focuses on the life and death of Emmett Till, an African American teenager whose brutal murder in Mississippi in 1955 shocked the nation and spurred the emerging civil rights movement.

David Dennard, ECU associate professor of history and MLK Day committee chair, said that Beauchamp’s work offers students an interesting perspective on the civil rights movement.

Beauchamp worked for 10 years on his documentary, “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” traveling between New York and Mississippi to reinvestigate the murder and subsequent trial and to interview hundreds of people connected to the case. The documentary was shown at ECU Jan. 10.

In May 2004, the U.S. Department of Justice re-opened the 49-year-old murder case, citing Beauchamp’s documentary as a major factor in its decision.

“Each year, we try to bring in individuals who were directly involved in the civil rights movement or scholars who have studied the civil rights movement,” Dennard said. “This year with Keith Beauchamp, [we had an individual] who prepared a documentary on an event that some people see as the birth of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s.”

A native of Louisiana, Beauchamp was chosen as ABC News’ Person of the Week in May 2005 for his dedication to telling Emmett Till’s story.

MLK activities continued on the observed holiday, Jan. 15, when students participated in a daylong volunteerism effort, organized by ECU’s Volunteer and Service Learning Center.

This page originally appeared in the Jan. 26, 2006 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at