For Immediate Release — Monday, Feb. 27, 2006


Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

SUNY Geneseo to hold Conversation in the Discipline on the black freedom and civil rights movements

GENESEO, N.Y. — The State University of New York at Geneseo will hold a Conversation in the Discipline titled "Local Studies, a National Movement: Toward a Historiography of the Black Freedom Movement" March 24-26.

The three-day conference will include a Sunday workshop for educators aimed at providing teachers with strategies to teach about movement themes, including the organizing tradition and self-defense. Geneseo Associate Professor of History Emilye Crosby, who is coordinating and participating in the conference, will lead the workshop. Teachers of all grade levels and professors would benefit from the workshop, said Crosby.

Panel discussions will run the gamut, from "Local Studies: What Do They Tell Us? Why Do They Matter?" to "Women, Gender, and Leadership" to "Moving Beyond Dichotomies: Reframing Nonviolence vs. Violence, Integration vs. Nationalism, and Civil Rights vs. Black Power."

The early histories of the civil rights movement tended to be national in scope, with a top-down perspective that focused on major events, national organizations and leaders, significant legal decisions, and obvious political shifts, said Crosby. This perspective continues to shape the prevailing popular view and even much of the scholarship that portrays the civil rights movement as a reformist, interracial crusade where nonviolent protesters exposed the evils of segregation and convinced the country, especially well-intentioned white northerners, to live up to its ideals of freedom and democracy. The conference will explore the most significant findings from the last decade of local movement studies and address ways to produce a synthesis and pass on the highlights to a broad audience. In particular, the Conversation will re-examine many of the commonplace assumptions about leadership, gender, nonviolence, self-defense and violence, as they played out in the movement and have been portrayed in the histories.

About a dozen guest professors and authors will deliver speeches at the conference. Here are some of the highlights:

  John Dittmer, emeritus professor of history at DePauw University and author of the prize-winning "Local People," will deliver a keynote address titled "Southern Community Studies and Their Critics" at 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 24. His 1994 book, "Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi," won the Bancroft Prize. He is researching the Medical Committee for Human Rights, a group of health care professionals active not only in the Deep South at the height of the civil rights movement but also as part of the New Left during the late 1960s and 1970s.

  Civil rights leader Judy Richardson, a staff member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the early 1960s who went on to co-produce the award-winning documentary series "Eyes on the Prize," will deliver a keynote address tentatively titled "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Stories and Reflections from Women and SNCC" at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25. Richardson is one of six women writing and editing a collection of personal stories of more than 50 women titled "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Women and SNCC." As a member of SNCC, Richardson was involved in several of its most visible projects, including an explicitly interracial project in southwest Georgia and the 1964 Freedom Summer project in Greenwood, Miss. She left her post with SNCC in Lowndes County, Ala.—where many of the ideas associated with Black Power emerged publicly and were reflected in the image of the Black Panther—to work on Julian Bond's successful first campaign for the Georgia House of Representatives.

  Charles Payne, the Sally Dalton Robinson professor of history, African-American studies and sociology, and director of the African and African-American Studies program at Duke University, and author of numerous monographs and collections of essays, will deliver a keynote address titled "Why Study the Movement?" at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 25. He is the author of "Getting What We Ask For: The Ambiguity of Success and Failure in Urban Education; Debating the Civil Rights Movement" and the award-winning "I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Movement" and the co-editor of "Time Longer Than Rope: A Century of African American Activism, 1850-1950." He focuses on urban education, the civil rights movement, social change and social inequality.

Other participants include: Komozi Woodard, Sarah Lawrence College; Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Ohio State University; Jeanne Theoharis, Brooklyn College; Robyn Spencer, Penn State University; Todd Moye, University of North Texas; and Wesley Hogan, Virginia State University.

The conference will begin with an opening reception at 2 p.m. Friday, March 24. Panels will be held Friday afternoon, followed by Dittmer's keynote address at 5:30 p.m. Following an 8:30 a.m. breakfast, Saturday's panels will begin at 9 a.m. and go through 4:30 p.m. Saturday's keynotes include Richardson's talk at 12:30 p.m. and Payne's talk at 5 p.m. Following an 8 a.m. breakfast Sunday, March 26, the conference will conclude with Crosby's teaching workshop, which will run from 8:30 a.m. to noon. All events will be held in Holcomb Hall.

Conference registration is $35 for the entire conference or $25 for one day. Registration is free for SUNY Geneseo faculty, staff and students, and all students enrolled in area colleges or other schools. Registration forms and additional information about the conference are available at or by contacting Crosby at History Department, 1 College Circle, Geneseo, N.Y. 14454, or (585) 245-5374.