DU's MLK Breakfast Features Dynamic Dialogue Between Civil Rights Activists
Posted: December 6, 2007 / Last Updated: December 27, 2007
The names Flonzie Brown-Wright and Hellen O'Neal-McCray may not mean much to the average person today, but because of their work, dedication and passion, we live in a much different world than 40 years ago. Denison University has the honor of presenting a dialogue between these two activists of the Civil Rights Era during a breakfast at 8:30 a.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 21, at the Welsh Hills Room, in the Burton D. Morgan Center (150 Ridge Road).
Brown-Wright and O'Neal-McCray were part of the 1964 Freedom Summer Project, which focused on voter registration and the education of black students. Trying to register to vote, Brown-Wright was asked to define "Habeas Corpus" as part of the registration form only black Mississippians were expected to answer. She went back and studied the Mississippi constitution, returned and registered successfully. Brown-Wright also vowed that she would get the job of the man who denied her vote. She did. Today Brown-Wright is an author, lecturer and scholar-in-residence with Miami University, Middletown.
It is difficult for people today to understand what the environment was for African-Americans before the civil rights movement. Flonzie Brown-Wright remembers, "It's been in my generation, in 1963, that blacks in this country could not register [to vote] without getting their heads cracked. I've seen it. I used to get phone threats daily. I've been to jail, I've been tear-gassed, shot at -- just to get that precious right to vote."
O'Neal-McCray was a member of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, (SNCC, pronounced "snick"). She was arrested for picketing at the Southern Governor's Conference in 1961 and for taking the second seat on a bus. A college student at Jackson State University at the time, she withdrew to participate in the demonstrations of 1961, the summer of the Freedom Rides. O'Neal-McCray recalls, "My family was pretty upset, sending me to college, they'd paid out of their pockets and they'd worked very hard to do that ... my mother had always had this expression, that you need to stand for something, or you stand for nothing." O'Neal-McCray did graduate from college and began teaching freedom school. "I had no special training, but I had eager students. I discovered that you don't need any kind of elaborate situation to teach, you can get the people who want to know and who have a willingness to learn, and you can teach them pretty much anything." Today, she continues to teach as a professor at Wilberforce University.
Each woman had a unique experience of the Civil Rights Era and will explore their perspectives in a dialogue that will be a gift to the campus and to all who attend.
- DU -
CALENDAR LISTING: Denison University, Granville -- Breakfast Dialogue with Flonzie Brown-Wright and Hellen O'Neal-McCray, 8:30 a.m., Mon., Jan. 21, at the Welsh Hills Room, Burton D. Morgan Center (150 Ridge Road). Free and open to the public. Reservations required. For reservations or more information, contact Lisa Scott at (740) 587-6711.
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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