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UAlbany Features Civil Rights Activist Myrlie Evers-Williams as Guest Speaker at Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon
Campus community celebrates Black History Month with series of lectures

Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 23, 2008) - Civil rights activist and writer Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, will be the guest speaker for the Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon at the University at Albany on Feb. 7.

"Myrlie Evers-Williams' spirit and integrity have triumphed in the face of ignorance and adversity. Her experiences are sure to enrich our campus and we are honored to have her participate in this UAlbany tradition," said Interim President George M. Philip.

In its 29th year, the luncheon begins at noon in the Campus Center Ball Room. It is the first lecture in a series, presented as part of the University's month-long celebration of Black History. All are free and open to the public.

  • "A Critical Review of Diversity in the News Media" by Erin E. Billups, news reporter at Capital News 9 in Albany, at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 8, Humanities Building Room 039.
  • "Reflections: The Trip to West Africa in the Summer of 2007" by Marcia Sutherland, chairwoman of UAlbany's Department of Africana Studies, and Kwadwo Sarfoh, associate professor, Department of Africana Studies, at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 15, Humanities Building, Room 039.
  • "Does Race Matter in the Judicial System?" by Albany attorney Timothy Taylor at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 22, Humanities Building, Room 039.

Evers-Williams is a former chairperson of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Her positive reputation among civil rights activists, and blacks in general, made her election in 1995 a cause for renewed optimism among NAACP supporters.

Born in Vicksburg, Miss., Evers-Williams worked full-time as field secretary for the NAACP in Mississippi beginning in 1954. She served as her husband's secretary in the Jackson office of the NAACP and played a significant role in advancing the civil rights cause. During the next nine years, the Evers led other blacks in challenging racial segregation and discrimination in what was generally considered one of the most racist states in the nation.

In June 1963, Medgar Evers was shot and killed as he entered his Jackson home. His murder brought national attention to the evils of racism in the South, particularly in Mississippi. Byron De La Beckwith, the white assassin, was tried several times but not convicted of the murder until 1994. Although devastated personally by her loss, Evers-Williams became a symbol of courage as well as tragedy in the civil rights movement. She and co-author William Peters wrote a biography of her late husband, Us the Living.

Evers-Williams moved to California in 1964, where she received her bachelor of arts degree from Pomona College in 1968, lectured for the NAACP, and began a career in business. She remained active in civil rights work and politics, running unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress in 1970 and serving as commissioner of public works for Los Angeles in 1987. She also worked for 10 years as director of community affairs for a Los Angeles corporation.

After opting not to run for another term as NAACP chairperson in 1998, Evers-Williams started the Medgar Evers Institute to promote education, training and economic development.

"Medgar Evers and the Evers family made profound sacrifices in the longstanding struggle of African Americans for their human rights to be respected and for America to manifest her democratic ideals. Our University community is fortunate to be able to hear this important story during Myrlie Evers-Williams' keynote address," said Marcia Sutherland, associate professor and chairwoman of the Department of Africana Studies.

The Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon program is organized by the Office of Multicultural Student Success and made possible by a grant from University Auxiliary Services and co-sponsorship by the Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action and the Office of the Vice President for Student Success.

The University at Albany's Africana Studies programs ranked in the top 10 in the nation for the third consecutive year, according to Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine. UAlbany is the only school in the SUNY system that offers a master's degree in Africana Studies. The department was created in 1969 as a result of the civil rights movement, and the master's degree program has attracted a growing number of international students. Graduates of the program can be found working as lawyers, government officials, and Foreign Service employees.

The University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in nine schools and colleges, and an honors college. For more information about this internationally ranked institution, visit theUniversity at Albany. Visit UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts.

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