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International Fulbright Scholars Visit ASU to Learn Civil Rights History

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Author: Timothy C. Ervin

Release Date: Dec 02, 2016

Fulbright Scholars, representing more than 40 countries, visited Alabama State University to learn about the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery.


Global Ties Alabama (formerly the International Services Council of Alabama), held its 2016 Fulbright Visiting Scholar Enrichment Seminar on the Alabama State University campus on December 1. This year’s theme was “The New South: Visions, Voices and Change.”

Global Ties Alabama (GTA) is the premier statewide organization that hosts international exchanges under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State.

Marc Smith, program officer for the Fulbright Scholar Program, said more than 40 countries were represented at the seminar and the event at ASU gave attendees the opportunity to gain insight into southern culture, to learn about the individuals and events in Alabama that influenced the Civil Rights Movement and to explore the meanings of the “new South.”

“We have about 80 Fulbright Scholars, foreign visiting scholars, here learning about civil rights, both past and present. Today we are focusing on the Civil Rights Movement here in Montgomery in the 1950s and 60s,” Smith said. “So, it’s a wonderful day to be here and convene and discuss with people who were actually there about the mobilization that happened to really enact change and create the Civil Rights Movement.”

Dr. Karyn Scissum Gunn, ASU’s associate provost for Academic Affairs, welcomed GTA to the campus and said that ASU embraces the group’s mission.

“Welcome to this great place we call Alabama State University, and thank you for your tireless commitment to change. That is why you are here,” Gunn said. “Each one of you made a commitment to be a change agent in some regard. That is a big deal to us. We are confident that your awareness and perspective of the New South will firmly position you as the 2016 Fulbright Scholars to serve as change agents for the betterment of all mankind.”

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Cassandra W. Adams, assistant dean of Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law Public Interest Program, reflected on her experiences growing up in rural California and shared how she made it through Fisk University, graduate school and eventually earned a law degree from the University of Tennessee. She said everything on life’s journey is necessary.

“Every problem, every stop, every point in the journey, everyone in the journey is important,” Adams said. “We must occupy our space with integrity. I pray that after this seminar you will become more resolute in your purpose, knowing that we all have something to give to our world and our community. Together we will meet those goals one step at a time.”


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A panel discussion, titled “Elevated Voices and Actions” discussed some first-hand accounts of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and ASU’s participation in the movement. Guest speakers for the event included Dr. Dorothy Autrey, director of programming for the National Center for the Study of Civil Right and African-American Culture; Dr. Howard Robinson, Archivist at ASU; Dr. Janice Franklin, dean, Levi Watkins Learning Center; Dr. Ralph Bryson, longtime faculty member (59 years) at ASU; and Nelson Malden, famed barber of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“ASU is at the heart of the modern Civil Rights Movement,” Franklin said. “We say that because our students and faculty were on the front lines of all of the major efforts, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the student protests, also Freedom Rides and the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights Movement.”

Robinson said it is important for international delegates and visitors to hear first-hand accounts of ASU’s rich civil rights history.

“It is very important to understand ASU’s role in the bus boycott and to hear accounts directly from people who have actually experienced it,” Robinson said.

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