Created Equal: The Civil Rights Movement Then and Now

A New Spring Program Series at Historic Newton

Created Equal: The Civil Rights Movement Then and Now

In the fall of 2103, we were thrilled to be selected as one of 473 institutions across the country awarded a grant to participate in an exciting new program. Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities that uses the power of documentary films to encourage community discussion of America’s civil rights history. NEH partnered with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to provide funding and develop programmatic and support materials for the selected sites.

This spring, we will offer an exciting series of programs built around two of the provided films.  These powerful documentaries, The Loving Story and Freedom Riders, include dramatic scenes of incidents in the 150-year effort to achieve equal rights for all in the United States.  The series will be comprised of 6 programs in March and April: 2 film screenings, 2 lectures, and 2 panel discussions.  Each of these programs will address aspects of the Civil Rights Movement – locally and nationally – to celebrate the importance of its legacy 50 years on, and to create dialogue about where we find ourselves today in relation to the same issues.

We hope this series will build on the dialogue started by our ‘Encountering Slavery and Race in New England’ series, bringing the subject of that series into the present in a powerful way that promotes community dialogue. Program co-sponsors include the Newton Human Rights Commission, Myrtle Baptist Church, and the Newton Department of Senior Services.

A complete listing of the programs in the series follows:

Wednesday, March 19, 7:00 PM
Panel Discussion—Housing Discrimination in Newton in the 1960s
Long-time Newton residents remember a time when Black families had trouble buying homes in the city, and the turnpike extension displaced over half of an African-American neighborhood in West Newton that had been established there for at least a century. Listen to first-hand accounts from the sixties, learn about the changes that have occurred since that time, and join the discussion about how we can impact the future of our city. Panelists include Rev. Howard Haywood (Pastor Emeritus at Myrtle Baptist Church), Ellen Feingold (a founder of the Newton Committee for Fair Housing and Equal Rights), Shirley Cooper Saunders Wright (victim and survivor of Newton Housing Discrimination in 1960s), and Sheila Mondshein (Current member of Newton Fair Housing Committee). At the Myrtle Baptist Church, 21 Curve St. Free.

Tuesday, March 25, 7:00 PM
Film Screening—The Loving Story
This moving documentary introduces the viewer to Richard and Mildred Loving, who were arrested in 1958 for violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. Their struggle culminated in the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia, which overturned anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. At the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds, 286 Waverley Avenue. Free.

Wednesday, April 2, 7:00 PM
Lecture—Count Them One by One: En Route to the Voting Rights Act of 1965
Shortly after completing law school, Gordon Martin was one of a dozen lawyers working for the Civil Rights Division of Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department. In 1963, he prepared United States v. Theron Lynd, the Justice Department’s first major voting rights case to go to trial in Mississippi. He will speak about this experience and its brave witnesses, who are the subject of his book, Count Them One by One: Black Mississippians Fighting for the Right to Vote. At the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds, 286 Waverley Avenue. Free.

Tuesday, April 8, 7:00 PM
Film Screening—Freedom Riders
The Freedom Rides of 1961 were a pivotal moment in the long Civil Rights struggle that redefined America. Based on Raymond Arsenault’s recent book, this documentary film offers an inside look at the brave band of activists who challenged segregation in the Deep South. At the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds, 286 Waverley Avenue. Free.

Thursday, April 17, 7:00 PM
Panel Discussion—Civil Rights Activism Past and Present
Activism took many forms in the sixties, as it does today. Hear stories of people who fought for equality then – from Freedom Riders to local residents – and their discussion about the successes and failures of the Civil Rights movement. Join in the discussion with your own stories and thoughts about how we can apply these lessons to the present and future. Panelists include Paul Breines (Freedom Rider), Katherine Butler Jones (METCO founder and director), and Walter Carrington (Commissioner 1957-1961, MA Commission Against Discrimination). At the Newton Senior Center, 345 Walnut St. Free.

Wednesday, April 30, 7:00 PM
Lecture—The New Black
Harvard Law Professor Kenneth Mack will speak from his latest book, entitled The New Black: What Has Changed — and What Has Not — With Race in America, which reexamines the familiar framework of the Civil Rights movement and challenges our understandings of the politics of race, racial identity and race-based inequality in a new century. Ranging from the challenges of contemporary civil rights organizing strategies, to immigration, to racial profiling, to the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, he will attempt to sketch for us the new boundaries of the debate over race in America. At the Newton Senior Center, 345 Walnut St. Free.