Miles College Officials presented the inaugural George T. French, Jr. Lyceum Speakers Series and unveiled the Historic Civil Rights Markers, Monday, February 24. This event was in honor of Black History Month and to pay tribute to the Miles College students, faculty and staff that marched in the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Geraldine Bell chaired the committee to establish the French speaker series and State Representative Juandalynn Givan chaired the Civil Rights Marker unveiling committee.
The Lyceum Speaker Series featured Congresswoman Terri Sewell who encouraged listeners to stay true to themselves in the pursuit of their endeavors. The series, named for the current president of Miles College, Dr. George T. French, Jr., intended as an annual event, is patterned after the W.E.B. DuBois Lectures at Harvard University, and will serve as a means of student development, by presenting scholars and their body of work for intellectual stimulation, inspiration and encouragement. These lectures will recognize persons of outstanding achievement who contribute to our better understanding of African-American life, history and culture.
The unveiling of the Civil Rights Markers took place on campus in Centennial Park located in front of Brown Hall, where many foot soldiers and other esteemed guests were in attendance. Dr. Jonathan McPherson, spear- headed the initiative a year ago through the State Department of Tourism to acquire these markers and to recognize the unsung heroes of Miles College.
These Historic Civil Rights Markers are commemorative symbols to honor and salute the Miles College Students who participated in the Civil Rights Movement for their courageous efforts and undying determination. In the Spring of 1962, a group of students from Miles College led by Frank Dukes, their 31 year old Student Government Association President, created and launched a Selective Buying Campaign. The campaign was a boycott of Birmingham’s downtown merchants. Supporting the students were Miles College President Dr. Lucius Pitts, selected faculty, local housewives, and members of Birmingham’s white community. These factions brought about significant desegregation before Dr. King’s arrival to the city in 1963.
We must never forget the selfless sacrifices of the Miles College Students who marched in the Civil Rights Movement and contributed to the freedoms and prosperity that we enjoy today. These Miles College Foot Soldiers set aside their own comfort, safety and aspirations to answer the call to arms at a time when our nation was still plagued with the horrors of Jim Crow Laws. These individuals helped to halt the tide of racism that threatened Human Civil Rights. Today African-Americans across the state of Alabama and all over the nation, realize a prosperous, vibrant and more democratic society because of their courage and selfless sacrifice.
The Miles College French Lyceum Speaker Series and the unveiling of the Civil Rights Markers served as a fitting Black History Month Celebration on the heels of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement.