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MLK programs planned at ECU
(Jan. 9, 2002) — Two former activists who played leadership roles in the 1960s civil rights movement will address Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative programs at East Carolina University on Jan. 15 and 21.
Victoria Jackson Gray Adams, a Mississippi native and a founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party will speak at the MLK birthday observance on Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. in Mendenhall Student Center's Hendrix Theatre. Her address will follow a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. on College Hill Drive.
Charles F. McDew will be the featured speaker at the MLK Day program on Jan. 21. McDew, who teaches classes on the history of the civil rights movement at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis, Minn., was among the founders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. His presentation is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Great Room at Mendenhall Student Center.
The programs are free and the public is invited.
Dr. David Dennard, an ECU history professor, said both speakers played significant roles in the civil rights movement of the1960s. He said their presentations include insights and recollections about some of the major events of the period.
Adams served as a spokesperson for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and was on the national board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She was the first woman in Mississippi to run for a seat in U.S. Senate in 1963. She was closely involved with the historic voter education and registration drive in 1964 that became known as the "Mississippi/Freedom Summer."
A native of Hattiesburg, Miss., Adams is featured in many civil rights films, documentaries and books including Taylor Branch's Pulitzer Prize winning book "Parting the Waters" and its sequel "Pillar of Fire." Films about her include "A Century of Women," "Eyes on the Prize" and "Freedom On My Mind."
McDew's career as an activist started when he led his first demonstration in the eighth grade to protest violations of the religious freedom of Amish students in his hometown of Massillon, Ohio. His career expanded when he participated in sit-in demonstrations while attending school at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg. In 1960 he joined in the founding of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. He chaired SNCC from 1961 to1964.
Under McDew's leadership, SNCC expanded its activities in parts of the South to include Mississippi which had been deemed "too dangerous" by organizers of the more traditional civil rights groups. Bob Moses, a fellow SNCC activist, described McDew as a "black by birth, a Jew by choice and a revolutionary by necessity."
ECU holds programs annually in observance of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. An MLK Observance Committee, the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, the Student Union Cultural Awareness Committee and the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity sponsor the programs.
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