Dr. Tamara King teaches her class about key Civil Rights actions that took place during the 1950s and 1960s. (Photo by Brent Kalwei)
Story by Brent Kalwei
Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks and many other Civil Rights activists hurdled over race barriers in order to help shape America into what it is today.
The Marshall Public Library will be hosting events about America’s struggle for change, featuring four film screenings and four discussions of each film. The first screening will take place Sunday, March 2, at 1:30 p.m., followed by the first discussion on Thursday, March 6, at 6:30 p.m.. The event will continue with a film and discussion every week on the same day and time of each week until the last discussion on March 27.
This program is called “Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle” and was made possible by Library Director Wicky Sleight, who applied and earned a grant from National Endowment for the Humanities.
Dr. Tamara King, MVC professor of History, will be one of the facilitators for all four discussions. She will get the ball rolling by starting the topics which include discussing film clips. Her knowledge and experience in the civil rights field of study was why she was chosen to help with the discussions.
King currently teaches a Civil Rights class at Missouri Valley College. In addition, she earned a master’s degree in Southern Studies at Ole Miss, earned a doctorate in History at Auburn University, took many civil rights classes at graduate school, and she also has her own collection of movies and books on the subject.
During the discussions, King will be accompanied by Sleight and Joshua Tetteh, MVC associate professor of Sociology.
King said she expects the audiences to mostly be made up of library patrons and older community members. She said she hopes to get people of all age groups, including those who remember living during these civil rights events, to the discussions. “The point is to get the community to talk,” said King.
Teaching others about how this country has taken steps toward equality is what creates interest for King. She said it’s ordinary people in our society who have had a common plan and who are the driving force in achieving extraordinary change in equality.
King said Marshall was at one time a segregated town with segregated schools. African-Americans used to have to go to Sedalia, where there was a black school.
The Civil Rights movement paved the way for desegregation in Marshall. It’s evident at MVC with the wide amount of diversity that the United States has found change over time.
The first film called “The Abolitionists” will feature the fight in which blacks and whites fought to end slavery, which was during the time protected by the Constitution. The capitalist system including bankers and plantation owners were getting rich from the labor of slavery.
King said the second film called “Slavery by Another Name” will focus more on a topic that not a lot of Americans know about. She added even after the Civil War was over, hundreds of thousands of African-Americans were subject to arrest all the way into the 1950s for their skin color.
King said many of these African-Americans were sent to work in chain gangs, farmers, factories, coal mines, and other places. The workers would be placed in these situations after minor or no criminal offense. Many would become injured or beaten and some even died during these working duties.
Film number three is called “The Loving Story” which has to deal with the Loving v. Virginia trial case. According to laws.com, Mildred, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, wanted to get married but Virginia law wouldn’t allow it.
The Lovings took the issue to court and won their case at the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967. This was a milestone that caused the elimination of similar racial marriage prohibition laws throughout the country.
Lastly, the fourth film “Freedom Riders” will take a look back to 1961 when college students rode to Jackson, Miss., to protest against segregation in the South. The Freedom Riders were arrested although they weren’t breaking any laws.
King said she found it appalling that during the bus boycotts, Attorney General Robert Kennedy made a deal with the Mississippi Governor to allow the arrests. She added that the Kennedy administration didn’t want to drive away white voters and therefore kept the protesters in jail, thus breaking the law.
King said it was important that Americans all around the country at that time knew racism was going on. “The role of the media in this is crucial,” said King, adding that with film, Americans were able to take notice of the reality of the cruelness in parts of the country.
There are so many people who sacrificed a lot to help America get to where it is today and people who don’t know the full story will get to see it at this event.
“There’s a debt we all owe to the Civil Rights generation for the work they did and the danger they faced,” King said.