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Susan Notes:

Tougaloo College has launched a drive to establish an endowed chair in civil rights. They indicate this will cost $2,000,000. The professor will receive a $55,000 salary plus a $5,000 travel/research grant from interest on this endowment.

If you want to put this in some context--and see how little Tougaloo is seeking--you can scan the earnings of employees of the Chicago Public Schools. The Central Office staffing is mind-boggling.

In addressing the need for a civil rights chair, Tougaloo makes a very important point:

"Only two of six recent high school U.S. history textbooks cover the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement adequately.(Those are Danzer, et al., The Americans, and Boyer, Holt American Nation.) Most textbooks do not even mention Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Freedom Summer, or the other people and events that made headlines then and make history today. By way of contrast, the average textbook devotes several photographs, lengthy quotations, and a boxed mini-biography -- as well as coverage in its main narrative -- to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Without question, King was important. Presenting the Civil Rights Movement as largely his creation does not do justice to the struggle in Mississippi, however, where King was peripheral, and omits the local people everywhere whose actions made the movement's successes possible. As a result of this treatment, to most Americans younger than 60 who are too young to remember it themselves, the Civil Rights Movement is almost synonymous with the name Martin Luther King, Jr. Its story thus becomes another account of the 'great men of history,' only a black man this time. This distorted memory provides little inspiration for young people today, since it gives little attention to the crucial actions taken by 'ordinary people.'"

Tougaloo notes that the significance of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement is that

"Across Mississippi, students, maids, garbage collectors, teachers, and farm workers took steps to win their full citizenship while facing the possibility of losing their jobs or even their lives. Residents in communities from Hernando in north Mississippi to the Gulf Coast opened their homes and their hearts to volunteers who came in to help people register to vote, to teach, to practice medicine and law, perform music and drama, and simply to live a desegregated life, thus violating the customs and laws of the 'Closed Society.'"

This message of ordinary people fighting for a just society is one we need to take into our hearts and minds RIGHT NOW.

by Richard Rothstein

Dear Friends,

It is occasionally better to send an impersonal e-mail to many friends and colleagues whom I wish it were practical to address personally. This is such an occasion.

This is the time of year when even the most community-responsible of us sit down to try to figure out how to rob the federal government of revenues to which it would otherwise be entitled. There are many worthy causes now competing for our attention as recipients of tax-deductible contributions. Let me add one more to add to your carefully-developed list:

A few months ago, I received the following note from Jim Loewen, author of the important books, Lies My Teacher Told Me, and Sundown Towns. I responded to his request with a contribution, and hope you will consider doing so as well. Rather than my trying to re-state what Jim wrote to me, I am copying the relevant portions of his note, below:

From Jim Loewen:

I am writing this e-letter to everyone I've met who strikes me as being interested in civil rights and justice for all. I want to tell you that some good folks are working on funding a Mississippi Civil Rights Movement Chair at Tougaloo College. As you may know, Tougaloo played an important and unique role in the Movement itself, and this offer might be of interest to you.

Tougaloo is a small predominantly black college located at the edge of Jackson, MS. During the civil rights movement, most black colleges took a "hands off" role, especially those under state control, but many private schools as well. Not Tougaloo. Even at the risk of its survival, Tougaloo backed its students when they got arrested, provided space for groups to meet, invited speakers whom white Mississippi deemed controversial if not subversive, and retained and promoted faculty members who campaigned for an end to racial segregation. At the time, these were very courageous, dangerous, and radical actions.

Tougaloo admitted Joyce Ladner and her sister, for example, when Jackson State expelled them for participating in civil rights movement activities. Joyce went on to become an award-winning sociologist and the first female president of Howard University. In her words, "Perhaps no other college in the South played as central a role in the Movement than Tougaloo. Founded over a century ago, Tougaloo was always a leader in human rights. It provided a liberal education to black students not found anywhere else in the state. In 1961, it found itself at the forefront when the 'Tougaloo Nine' students staged the first sit-in in Mississippi at the then all-white Jackson Public Library. Tougaloo hosted civil rights activists from the Freedom Riders in 1961 to the Meredith March in 1966. Prominent leaders and ordinary citizens found safe haven at Tougaloo, which was called 'an oasis of freedom' because it was the only place where integrated groups could gather. Prominent individuals such as Ralph Bunche, Martin Luther King Jr., Stokeley Carmichael, Fannie Lou Hamer, Julian Bond, Joan Baez, and Congressman John Lewis spoke at its historic Woodworth Chapel. Students, faculty, and staff were arrested for protesting racial discrimination at segregated white churches, the city auditorium, and were beaten at the F.W. Woolworth lunch counter. We students routinely conducted voter registration drives across the state, a boycott against Jackson businesses, and some of us were deeply involved with SNCC, COFO, and the Freedom Democratic Party."

Now, some private individuals with the support of the college have undertaken a campaign to endow a "Mississippi Civil Rights Movement Chair" at Tougaloo. In Ladner's words, "It will be the College's first endowed chair and the first such chair in Mississippi devoted to the Civil Rights Movement." She goes on to say, "Tougaloo paid a heavy price for its involvement. It was dubbed "Cancer College" by whites, and the Mississippi State Legislature attempted to revoke its charter." To this day, Tougaloo is not able to draw on the economic elite of Mississippi for the kind of support that many other colleges get from their areas and states. That's one reason why this campaign is so important.

An endowed chair will make a huge difference at Tougaloo, both by funding an important faculty position and also by improving campus morale. I am helping with this campaign because I feel that a dollar given to Tougaloo goes further, compared to any other college. Certainly my alma mater, Carleton College, does not need my support, although I give Carleton $10/year just so it can claim another giving alum. Even less does my graduate school, Harvard, whose endowment is obscenely large. Tougaloo, on the other hand, does more with less than any other college I know. Even with its limited financial resources, it still offers a fine education. In Ladner's words, "It was at Tougaloo that I learned the importance of using knowledge to promote social change. Professors at Tougaloo encouraged us to explore languages, the decolonization on the African continent, participate in Crossroads Africa, join the Peace Corps, and apply for graduate and professional schools. Tougaloo students continue to enter graduate, medical, and law schools in disproportionate numbers compared to its peer institutions."

This professorship will allow the college, again quoting Ladner, "to bring to the campus the kind of nationally known scholar the students deserve the right to have as part of their education. Such a professor will be a role model for faculty colleagues as well as students. This endowed chair will help retain an impressive faculty member or to recruit a nationally renowned professor who will provide distinction to the College. This chair will also enable the College to continue its proud tradition as a leader in the struggle for human rights, as a continuing legacy."

Today, all that many young people in Mississippi know of the civil rights movement is "Martin Luther King Jr." And he played only a minor role in Mississippi! Simply establishing a Mississippi Civil Rights Movement Chair will honor and remember a great cause, a magnificent campaign.

If you wish to donate, send checks made out to "Tougaloo College," with the "for" blank saying "Civil Rights Chair," to Tougaloo College, Office of Institutional Advancement, 500 W. County Line Rd., Tougaloo, MS, 39174.

If you would like to know more about this campaign, Jim Loewen (jloewen@uvm.edu) would be glad to send you a copy of the College folder seeking support.

It is not necessary, of course, that you do this, but if you do contribute and want Jim Loewen to know of your contribution (and keep track of funds that he and his friends and colleagues, and that their friends and colleagues, like you, have contributed), you can send him a note at jloewen@uvm.edu.

Thank you for reading this, and thank you for considering supporting Tougaloo College.

— Richard Rothstein



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