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January 28, 2002

King Week opens with wide-ranging tribute

By Eric Rangus


Emory’s celebration of King Week began Jan. 22 at Cannon Chapel with the opening ceremony of the exhibit “A Dream Deferred: African Americans at Emory and Oxford Colleges, 1836–1968.”

The program was at times exciting, moving, informative, playful and reverent. In short, everything that Martin Luther King Jr. was.

“Never in my wildest dreams have I ever dreamed I would be here at a time like this, in a place like this,” said J.P Godfrey, Oxford city councilman. Godfrey was one of many men and women associated with Oxford and Emory who were honored during the evening.

The history that makes up “A Dream Deferred,” which debuted on the Oxford campus in January 2001 and now is taking up temporary residence in Special Collections, was put together through the efforts of anthropology Assistant Professor Mark Auslander’s “Culture of the African Diaspora” class.

The project uncovered the stories of the many African Americans (a great deal of whom were descendents of slaves or slaves themselves) whose lives and labor helped build both Oxford and Emory. Many of the students whose work created the project were on hand, and Auslander served as master of ceremonies.

“As a result of these students’ work, we are a closer community than we have ever been,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey was lauded for his work to desegregate the Oxford Historical Cemetery. Also honored were three African American historians from Oxford: Sarah Thompson Hardeman, Mildred Joiner and Emogene Williams who were presented with certificates and recognized.

Callie “Pat” Smith, a graduate of Emory College whose great-grandfather, William H.F. Thomas, helped build an number of Emory’s early buildings, represented the descendants of the scores of African American men and women who helped construct the University.

“You have verified what we have always sensed,” Smith said, “that our predecessors were great people.

In addition to Auslander, more than a dozen speakers took the podium. They included some of Emory’s top administrative leaders (President Bill Chace and interim Provost Woody Hunter), as well as Oxford (Dean Dana Greene), along with the University’s religious leaders (Dean of the Chapel Susan Henry-Crowe, Associate Dean of the Chapel Bridgette Young and Oxford Chaplain Darryl Barrow all shared the benediction).

Finally, foremost among the evening’s highlights were the performances of the Martin Luther King Jr. Interdenominational Choir of Newton County and soloist Mary Beavers, each of whom received standing ovations for their performances.

Following the event, attendees were invited to tour the exhibit in Special Collections as well as an accompanying exhibit in the Pitts Theology Library called “Protesting Racial Violence: Andrew Sledd, Warren Candler and Lynching Controversies in Early 20th Century Georgia.” The exhibit includes three images from the Allen-Littlefield collection of lynching photographs, which is scheduled go on full display in May at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.




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