The MVRHS Diversity Speaker Series for the 2017–18 school year kicks off this Thursday, Nov.16, at 6:30 pm in the MVRHS library with a presentation and discussion by Pat Sullivan on the civil rights movement, how it changed America, and what it means today.
According to a press release, Ms. Sullivan will focus on the young people who became active in the civil rights movement — from the high school students in Prince Edward County, Va., who were part of the legal challenge to school segregation, to the college students who organized sit-ins, Freedom Rides, and voter registration efforts — how they were inspired by what they learned about democracy and citizenship in their communities and at school. How did that shape the way they saw the world they lived in, and their place in it? What enabled them to act on these ideals? What were they willing to risk? What were the consequences? How did their efforts contribute to the end of segregation in the South and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
The civil rights movement secured laws expanding federal protection of citizenship rights — enabling all groups who had been marginalized and denied equal protection of the law to claim full and equal rights. These changes elevated the full diversity of American life and experience in ways that were unimaginable 60 years ago. As our society and political culture has become more polarized and divided, the democratic vision at the core of the civil rights movement is especially relevant, demonstrating the power of working together to advance a common vision for America’s future, one based on justice, equal rights, and civic participation.
Ms. Sullivan teaches history at the University of South Carolina, and has a home on Martha’s Vineyard. She first came to the Vineyard in 1987 to work on a book with longtime civil rights activist Virginia Durr (“Freedom Writer: Virginia Foster Durr: Letters from the Civil Rights Years.”) She is currently writing a book about Robert Kennedy, civil rights, and the struggle for racial justice in the 1960s.