Four nationally known civil rights leaders will visit the Converse campus March 23rd to discuss implementation of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. Matthew J. Perry Jr., Jack Bass, Hayes Mizzell and Cleveland Sellers will participate. The event begins at 7 p.m. in Daniel Recital Hall, and is free and open to the public.
“There were three notable stages of implementation,” said Dr. Joe P. Dunn, chair of the history and politics department at Converse and moderator the discussion. “During the 1950s and 60s, the Southern states used every power at their disposals to resist the implementation of integration. During the 1970s, more emphasis was placed on the issue of racial balance to be achieved through busing. This in many ways was the opposite of what the Brown v. Board case was all about. Since the mid 1980s, integration has been accepted as norm, but significant problems exist, and the current trend is toward re-segregation both of schools and within individual schools.”
Matthew J. Perry Jr., a civil rights activist and U.S. District Judge, was the lead attorney for the NAACP in South Carolina from the 1950s until the 1970s and litigated the major school desegregation cases during that period, most prominently Harvey Gantt’s desegregation of Clemson University. Since 1979 he has served as a judge of the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina.
Jack Bass is author of many books and articles about civil rights and politics in the South as journalist and analyst. He co-authored Ol’ Strom with Washington Post editor Marilyn W. Thompson, which has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His 1993 book Taming the Storm: The Life and Times of Frank M. Johnson Jr. and the South’s Fight Over Civil Rights won the 1994 Robert Kennedy Book Award.
Hayes Mizzell began his career as an advocate for education reform in 1966 by working to desegregate schools in South Carolina. He was subsequently involved in a wide variety of activities at local, state, and national levels to improve how public schools serve children from low-income families. He played key roles in building public and political support for the creation of South Carolina’s human rights agency, the enactment of state school finance reform legislation, and increasing citizens’ involvement in school governance.
Cleveland Sellers was one of the leading black militants during the 60s and early 70s and a founder of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee). He was wounded during the Orangeburg massacre in 1968 and served seven months in prison after a jury convicted him in 1970 of “riot.” He later earned a masters degree from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In 1993, he received a pardon from the state of South Carolina. Sellers is now Director of the African American Studies program at the University of South Carolina. His book The River of No Return: The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC is one of the best accounts of the radicalization of the civil rights movement.