Speaker talks race, gender in civil rights


By Shikha Duttyal

Students and faculty kicked off LGBTQ Awareness Month with a discussion of the passage of the Civil Rights Act Wednesday.

The lecture — Race, Gender and the Civil Rights Act: An Historical Perspective — was presented by Patricia Sullivan, history professor at the University of South Carolina. The graduate colloquium co-sponsored the lecture with the LGBT and Women’s Studies programs.

Sullivan’s book, “Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement,” was the theme of the lecture, while the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was also widely discussed.

Rebekah Kohli, Women’s Studies program coordinator, said she was excited that at the end of Women’s History Month in March, she got a chance to look back at the historical events leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Kohli said NIU was fortunate to have Sullivan as a visitor.

Sullivan covered how the Civil Rights Act came to be, starting with President John F. Kennedy’s push for civil rights legislation. The lecture covered stories of men and women who fought inescapable racial barriers in the North and the South to keep democracy alive in the ’50s and ’60s. JFK, an adversary to racial discrimination, pressured federal government organizations to encourage the employment of African Americans at the time, Sullivan said. After the lecture, Sullivan and several students raised concerns of the lack of awareness by students of the history of the United States.

“It was a great mix of students and faculty with a lot of good energy,” Sullivan said. “It’s a great place where women’s and civil rights [can] come together.”

Junior English major Richard Artman said the lecture was interesting and he would like to have lectures like it in future.

“I like any time we know more about our history. It is helping us as students to know more,” Artman said.