For example, U. S. Minority Leader Everett Dirksen played a key role in getting 27 of 33 Republicans to support the Civil Rights bill in 1964. Dirksen hailed from Pekin, Illinois – just across the Illinois River from Bradley. Other Central Illinoisans have played critical roles in advancing civil rights, as well, including Abraham Lincoln who gave his first speech against the expansion of slavery in Central Illinois and Betty Friedan, a Peoria native who wrote The Feminine Mystique which is often credited with sparking the second wave of women’s rights in America.
Bradley chose the theme to emphasize the importance of this generation of college students and others gaining awareness of the important roles that Illinoisans played in advancing civil rights in the United States. The goal is to enhance the culture of diversity, acceptance, and inclusion at Bradley while also providing students with a historical perspective of the Civil Rights movement to highlight the progress made as well as the work yet to be done. Through campus and community collaboration the University hopes to open dialogue on the issue of civil rights and diversity on campus and in the community.
A variety of activities will take place throughout the school year. The first event will be the showing of To Kill a Mockingbird on September 25 at 6 p.m. There will be an introduction by Bradley University President Joanne Glasser and commentary by Cliff Scott-Rudnick, Assistant Professor at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, and Don Jackson, Peoria NAACP chapter president. Other events will include guest speakers Terrence James Roberts (one of the Little Rock 9) and US Representative John Lewis; re-enactments and performances; poetry contests; campus and community-wide book reads; showing of movies 42 and Lincoln; plus much more.
President Glasser says she is proud that the University will focus on civil rights. “For America, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was transformative. It paved the way for better education, better job opportunities and better quality of life for millions of people and generations to come.” From its earliest days, Bradley University has maintained an open admission policy providing a means to gain an exemplary education to all men and women regardless of age, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic level or sexual orientation. She sees this celebration as an extension of that policy. “I see this as the beginning of an ongoing discussion on inclusion and understanding for students, faculty, staff and society.”
For more information on "Celebrating Civil Rights – Past and Present" at Bradley see www.bradley.edu/civilrights.