By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Tougaloo College is starting an 18-month commemoration of the civil rights movement, 50 years after the effort helped reshape the American political and social landscape.
The first event is a gala Saturday night at the Jackson Convention Complex, honoring four people who founded organizations designed to help the poor or disenfranchised: Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund; Dr. H. Jack Geiger of Physicians for Human Rights; and Robert “Bob” Moses of The Algebra Project. Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Roberta Flack will perform.
Tougaloo is a private, historically black college in north Jackson. During the civil rights movement, its students and faculty participated in sit-ins and other activities that challenged Mississippi’s deeply segregated society. The college also hosted Freedom Riders who came to the South to work for racial equality.
“Tougaloo College has not given up on the ideals of a free society,” Tougaloo President Beverly W. Hogan said Thursday.
Her comments came during a wreath-laying ceremony to honor the memory of Medgar Evers, the Mississippi NAACP leader who was assassinated outside his Jackson home on June 12, 1963. Evers had helped organize Tougaloo students for peaceful activities that challenged racial injustice. In late 1962 and early 1963, Tougaloo students helped boycott white-owned downtown Jackson businesses that refused to serve black customers.
Joan Trumpauer, of Arlington, Va., _ who later married and became Joan Trumpauer Mulholland _ was one of the few white students on campus when she attended Tougaloo in the early 1960s. She left Duke University in 1961 and went to Mississippi to work in the civil rights movement because she believed in the Bible’s call to love others.
In a 2009 interview with The Associated Press, Trumpauer Mulholland talked about the violent reaction by a mob of local white students after Tougaloo students, black and white, sat down at what had been a whites-only Woolworth’s lunch counter in downtown Jackson in May 1963.
“The students that came down to observe us, the white high school students, started grabbing everything they could off the counter _ mustard and ketchup and vinegar and salt and pepper and sugar. And some brass knuckles came into play, and cigarettes on the guys,” Trumpauer Mulholland recalled. “And once they ran out of condiments, they started grabbing things off the open counters, little junky things like they sell at dollar stores today, and throwing them at us and spray painting our backs and just generally tearing up the place and using it to attack us.”
Tougaloo officials say the college plans to host several lectures, concerts and other events through the end of 2014 to honor those who worked in the civil rights movement. Saturday’s gala coincides with the board meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which is meeting in Jackson for the first time in 30 years.
“We all come together so that we can move forward together, to continue to create a more humane and just world,” Hogan said Thursday. “We use the lessons of our past to help us know how to do that … as we continue to influence global democracy and prepare the next generation of men and women to continue to light the flame of justice and carry it forward.”
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By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS