By STEWART COARD – CENTO WRITER
The National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of its Bridging Cultures Initiative in partnership with the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, recently gave Centre College a grant to run year-long programming meant to increase awareness and discussion of the Civil Rights movement.
The program initially included four films documenting specific aspects of the Civil Rights struggle in American History. The films included the Abolitionists, which focuses on individuals who opposed slavery in Antebellum America, Slavery by Another Name, which documents the forced labor systems which arose to replace slavery, The Loving Story, a documentary on the Loving v. Virgina case which overturned bans on interracial marriage, and Freedom Riders, which details the freedom rides of 1961.
The films are then followed by a discussion group led by professors and guests speakers including Raoul Cunningham of the Kentucky National Asociation for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Rep. Derrick Graham of the Kentucky House of Representatives.
“Centre has put its little spin on it with authors and multi-media shows,” Student Liaison for Dr. Stroup and Atkins Briana Lathon said.
The program has already included convocations such as a public reading by Frank X Walker, author of Turn Me Loose: the Unghosting of Medgar Evers and The Myths and Miracles from the King Years lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Taylor Branch.
It is both Dr. Stroup’s and Atkin’s hope that the program will increase awareness among Centre students and the Danville community of how the Civil Rights movement has existed in the past and how it continues to exist today.
However, they feel that is often difficult for Americans to discuss these issues even today.
“The goal was to start a conversation,” Dr. Stroup said.
“Americans have a bit of trouble talking to each other about these issues.”
Atkins echoed similar sentiments when talking about the importance of continuing these conversations, even in the 21st century.
“We want them to know what happened in the past and connect it with 2014 [and to show that] we’re dealing with the same issues today,” Atkins said.
“We wanted to ensure opportunities to talk about Civil Rights in America,” Atkins said.
“We are having these viewings and discussions for students and citizens concerned about human relations.”
Atkins emphasizes the importance of knowing the many aspects of history, stating “the series covers everything from slavery to the Freedom Riders to interracial marriage to voting rights.”
“Not just the college, but the town itself has embraced the program,” Dr. Stroup said.
Lathon reinforced the ideas set forward by Dr. Stroup and Atkins.
“My biggest goal is general awareness, where [we] don’t just realize that it’s happening, but you can watch the news and understand the forces at work.”.
She believes that Centre students as people “who generally care about those around them,” need to learn more about these issues outside of the classroom than they would in high school or even in college courses.
“It is important for Centre students because there is no way you can exist in society if there is rampant injustice. It even affects the dominant groups,” Lathon said.
She hopes that students will be able to “look at dominant narratives and ask ‘what is the counter-narrative?’”
Slavery by Another Name, the first film in the series of four, will be playing at Valhkamp Theater on Nov. 2 at 3:00 p.m. and on the Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
The movie will then be followed by a group discussion at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 6 in the Ewen Room.