Chautauqua 2008: Civil Rights: Taking A Stand
Character and Presenter BIOs
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. (1929-1968)
Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the principal figures of the American civil rights movement. He gained national prominence in 1955-1956 when he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott that began a nationwide protest based on non-violent, direct action, and civil disobedience to dismantle Jim Crow segregation in the American South and further racial equality. King was one of the founders and the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference through which he led this movement. At the1963 March on Washington, he galvanized the nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech, and the following year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His work resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the opening of segregated facilities across the nation, and later broadened to embrace the cause of the poor in a Poor People’s Campaign. When he publicly criticized the Vietnam War, King broke with President Lyndon Johnson. In 1968 he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a march in support of striking sanitation workers.
Bill Grimmette is a living history interpreter, storyteller, actor, and motivational speaker who has worked in film, television, and on stage throughout the United States and abroad. He has appeared as Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. DuBois, Frederick Douglass, and Benjamin Banneker at Chautauquas in Maryland, Colorado, and South Carolina and at schools in the Northern Marianas. He has also performed at the Smithsonian Institution, the Kennedy Center, and on National Public Radio. Grimmette has an M.A. in psychology from the Catholic University of America, and has done post-graduate work in education at George Mason University.
[Bill Grimmette will portray Martin Luther King, Jr. at Montgomery College, CCBC, College of Southern Maryland, Cecil College, Chesapeake College, and Wor-Wic Community College.]
Lenneal Henderson is Distinguished Professor of Government and Public Administration and Senior Fellow at both the Schaefer Center for Public Policy and the Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics at the University of Baltimore. He has been a consultant in government, corporate, and nonprofit sectors for more than thirty years in the areas of housing, education policy, energy management, environmental policy, and public management. He serves as Vice-Chair of the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and a member of the Board of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. Henderson has appeared as Thurgood Marshall in Maryland, Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, and California, and as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Maryland and Colorado. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
[Lenneal Henderson will portray Martin Luther King, Jr. at one site only – Garrett College]
MALCOLM X (1925-1965)
Malcolm X rose from a life of drugs and crime to become a charismatic and controversial figure in the struggle for black liberation in the United States. While serving a prison sentence, he discovered the writings of Elijah Muhammad and converted to the Nation of Islam. After his parole in 1952, he became a leading spokesman for the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims), advocating black separatism and non engagement, thus rejecting Martin Luther King, Jr.’s policies of nonviolent direct action. Breaking with the Nation of Islam in 1964, he made a pilgrimage to Mecca and embraced orthodox Islam. He modified some of his more strident views on race and encouraged blacks to vote and to work with each other and with sympathetic whites and Hispanics for an end to racial discrimination. In 1965 he was assassinated while giving a speech in New York City.
Charles Everett Pace performs on a full-time basis at Chautauquas and other events throughout the nation. He has served as Program Advisor at the Texas Union, University of Texas at Austin, and has taught at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Purdue University, and Centre College in Kentucky. He has also conducted performance-based public diplomacy work for the United States Information Agency in nine countries in Africa. In addition to Malcolm X, he portrays Langston Hughes, Frederick Douglass, Scott Joplin, W.E.B. DuBois, and York. He appeared at Maryland Chautauquas in 1996 and 1998. Pace has an M.A. in American Studies from Purdue University.
ROSA PARKS (1913-2005)
Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus on December1, 1955 marked the beginning of the modern civil rights movement and made her an inspiration to activists worldwide. Her arrest resulted in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, lasting 381 days and led by Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr. Throughout her life, this pioneer in the struggle for racial equality received many honors, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. At her death, Parks was the first woman in American history to lie in state at the Capitol, an honor usually reserved for Presidents of the United States.
[Although Rosa Parks was one of the few female civil rights figures who is widely known, many women made important contributions to the movement. Some, such as Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, and Myrlie Evers-Williams were the wives of prominent male leaders. Others included Ella Baker, Septima Poinsette Clark, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Vivian Malone Jones, as well as Marylanders Juanita Jackson Mitchell and Gloria Richardson]
Gwendolyn Briley-Strand has been delighting audiences on stage, television, and in movie theatres for over twenty years. Known for her portrayals of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Rosa Parks, she has appeared at the White House, the Smithsonian, and the Kennedy Center, as well as museums, schools, and cultural organizations. Briley-Strand performed as Harriet Tubman in the 2000 Maryland Chautauqua and is a member of the Maryland Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. She received her B.A. in theater from Fordham University.
GEORGE WALLACE (1919-1998)
George Corley Wallace, Jr., who served four terms as Governor of Alabama and ran for President of the United States four times, was a controversial politician who was one of America’s most outspoken supporters of racial segregation in the 1960s. Cut down by a would-be assassin's bullet in Laurel, Maryland, in 1972 while campaigning in the Democratic presidential primary, he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. Infamous for his 1963 school house door proclamation of "segregation forever," Wallace was the symbol of southern resistance to civil rights. Yet by the 1970s he was a changed man, reflecting racial change then sweeping the south. He was elected in 1982 to his last term as Governor with support from black leaders.
Doug Mishler is an independent scholar who has taught at the University of Nevada and Western Washington University. He is the author of a history of the Ringling Brothers Circus and has consulted on several public television and Chautauqua programs. Since 1995, Mishler has appeared at the Maryland Chautauqua as P. T. Barnum, Theodore Roosevelt, William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Ford, and Upton Sinclair. He also portrays Ernie Pyle, Billy Sunday, William Clark, Andrew Carnegie, Jefferson Davis, Edward R. Murrow, and Thomas Hart Benton. Mishler has a Ph.D. in American cultural history from the University of Nevada, Reno.