UMBC looks back with civil rights leaders

Published to The Retriever Weekly on 12/30/12

The Dresher Center for the Humanities held a discussion on Wednesday, Dec. 5 in the Performing Arts and Humanities Building Theater during which panelists discussed the role of the youth in the Civil Rights Movement. Students, faculty and guests filled the theater at 4 p.m. to listen.

“As we look back at the past and at different parts of our lives, we see things differently,” said President Freeman A. Hrabowski. As a child in the1960s, Hrabowski participated in the children’s march for the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama.

“It was a painful and raw experience,” said Hrabowski during his speech. He discussed topics of social class, his privileges in a Deep South middle-class neighborhood as well as controversies about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the movement.

Joining President Hrabowski on the panel was Civil Rights Leader and Former Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Julian Bond, author Andrew B. Lewis and Taylor Branch, both an author and historian who moderated the discussion.

During his speech, Lewis, author of the book The Shadows of Youth: The Remarkable Journey of the Civil Rights Generation, explained: “African Americans broke the law in order to be arrested and show the immorality of segregation. Young people should be inspired by the movement and use it to think of new forms of activism.”

Later on in the discussion, Bond took the time to explain the role of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) which emerged during the 1sit-ins of the 1960s. As a founder of the organization, he described how the organization evolved and was a key factor in youth involvement in the southern movement.

“I think one of the things we see is that this kind of relative prosperity can make people more politically engaged,” said Lewis during the panel discussion. All panelists emphasized the importance of young people becoming actively involved in their communities.

The discussion came to a close around 5:30 p.m. and was followed by a Q&A as well as refreshments in the lobby. “This was definitely enrapturing,” said sophomore and economics major Valerie Parks. She and many other UMBC students were moved by the speakers. “The audience was gripped with emotion,” she said.

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