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Randolph College Honors 50th Anniversary of Lynchburg's First Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Panel, Giovanni Lecture

Feb. 17 Event features panel discussion and lecture by world-renowned poet, Nikki Giovanni

1/27/2011 6:31:38 AM


LYNCHBURG—Randolph College will honor the 50th anniversary of Lynchburg’s first civil rights sit-ins with two special events on Feb. 17. “Civil Rights: A Work in Progress” will feature a special panel, including participants of the first sit-ins, and a free lecture by world-renowned poet Nikki Giovanni.

Lynchburg Sit-In Panel Discussion

The Lynchburg Sit-In Panel Discussion will be held at 4:30 p.m. in the Alice Ashley Jack Room of Smith Building on Randolph’s campus.

Moderated by Gilliam Cobbs, a Lynchburg community leader, the panel will feature three College alumna, including Mary Edith Bentley Abu-Sabu ’61, a member of the Patterson Six. In December 1960, Abu-Sabu joined fellow R-MWC alumna Rebecca Owen ’61, who is now deceased, two Lynchburg College students, and two students from Virginia Theological Seminary and College in a sit-in at a local drugstore lunch counter. The protest generated controversy throughout Lynchburg and resulted in the students’ arrest. They were sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Other College alumna participating in the panel include Alice Hilseweck Ball ’61, who participated in a second sit-in and Evanda Gale Jefferson ’70, who was a Lynchburg resident at the time of the sit-in and was one of the first black graduates of R-MWC.

Nikki Giovanni Lecture

Following the panel at 7:30 p.m. in Randolph’s Houston Memorial Chapel, Nikki Giovanni, an American poet, writer, commentary, activist and educator, will speak on “Activism and Civil Rights Today.” Her lecture, funded by the Philip Thayer Memorial Lecture Fund and the Kennedy-Fitzgerald Fund, is free and open to the public.

Giovanni currently serves as a Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech. One of the most widely-read American poets, she prides herself on being "a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English." Giovanni remains as determined and committed as ever to the fight for civil rights and equality. Always insisting on presenting the truth as she sees it, she has maintained a prominent place as a strong voice of the Black community. Her focus is on the individual, specifically, on the power one has to make a difference in oneself, and thus, in the lives of others. She is the author of some 30 books for adults and children.

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Giovanni grew up in Lincoln Heights, an all-black suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. She and her sister spent their summers with their grandparents in Knoxville, and she graduated with honors from Fisk University, her grandfather's alma mater, in 1968; after graduating from Fisk, she attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. She published her first book of poetry, Black Feeling Black Talk, in 1968, and within the next year published a second book, thus launching her career as a writer. Early in her career she was dubbed the "Princess of Black Poetry," and over the course of more than three decades of publishing and lecturing she has come to be called both a "National Treasure" and, most recently, one of Oprah Winfrey's twenty-five "Living Legends."

For more information, contact Randolph College at 947-8142 or 947-8000 or go to

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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations