50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act Inspires Allegheny College’s Programming for 2013-14

Many of the events planned at Allegheny College in 2013-14 – in the academic year leading up to the college’s bicentennial in 2015 — will celebrate the 50th anniversary in 2014 of the Civil Rights Act. Programming for 2014-15 will center on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

“The thrust of the programming for the next two years will not be exclusively commemorative,” noted Associate Professor of Political Science Brian M. Harward, who with Professor of English Ben Slote serves as co-chair for the college’s annual programming for the next two years. “In the spirit of these three anniversaries, campus-wide events will also confront current forms of injustice and disenfranchisement, locally, nationally and across the globe, and explore the role the college and its future alumni can play in redressing these problems.”

Keynote speakers for 2013-14 will include civil rights icon Julian Bond on November 15 at 7 p.m. in Shafer Auditorium. Bond last visited Allegheny in 1976, when he was the keynote speaker at a workshop organized by the Allegheny Association of Black Collegians. On April 11, 2014, another national leader in the field of civil rights, Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, will give a keynote address at 7 p.m. in Ford Chapel.

Poet Richard Blanco, who composed the poem “One Today” for President Barack Obama’s second inaugural and read it at the ceremony, will give a reading from his work at 7 p.m. on January 30 in Ford Chapel. His presentation is also part of the college’s Single Voice Reading Series.

One of the centerpieces of the year’s programming will be “Democracy Realized? Legacy of Civil Rights,” a conference for undergraduates on March 28-29. Keynote presentations by five renowned activists and scholars — James Lawson, Lucius Outlaw, Ellen Armour, Matthew Fletcher and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson — will be open to the public.

Events will also include three theatre productions related to the college’s bicentennial and/or to the Civil Rights theme. Senior Katie Beck will present on November 1 a community-based play she wrote on Meadville and the Underground Railroad. The college’s Playshop Theatre will perform Alice Childress’ play “Wedding Band” on February 27 and 28 and March 1 and 2. Subtitled “A Love/Hate Story in Black and White,” Childress’ play is an examination of an interracial love affair set in South Carolina in 1918. Later in the spring semester, Student Experimental Theater (SET) will debut “Calling Ida,” a one-act play by Professor Ben Slote that includes Ida Tarbell, pioneering journalist and Allegheny alumna, as one of its characters.

On March 5 lawyer turned filmmaker Dawn Porter will show her film “Gideon’s Army,” which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and debuted on HBO Documentary Films in July. “Gideon’s Army” follows three young public defenders in the Deep South during their daily mission to counsel hundreds of defendants through the strained criminal justice system.

In addition to lectures and presentations by scholars and speakers from a range of disciplines, two Allegheny alumni will return to campus to speak: Rick Momeyer, class of 1964, will speak on October 9 about his experiences working for civil and voting rights during the Freedom Summer of 1964. Tim Downing, class of 1985, will speak on February 5 about his work with Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

More information on each of the above events, which are free with the exception of the Playshop Theatre production, can be found at www.allegheny.edu/200.