Dr. Ayers shares her story in response to Civil Rights

Dr. Cathy Ayers shares her story in response to Civil Rights in the 1960s

Published: March 16, 2010.

As part of the Art of Memory series, Dr. Cathy Ayers, communications professor at Lewis University, delivered a presentation on Feb. 25 entitled, “Southern Response to Civil Rights in the 1960s.”

Ayers not only examined how differently people of the South and the North remember their reactions to the Civil Rights Movement, but also shared her own story of growing up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama. She expressed how frightened, devastated and shocked she was on September 15, 1963, when 10 sticks of dynamite were used to blow up a Baptist church, killing four young girls.

Recalling the vivid images of their “innocent faces on the news that night,” Ayers informed her audience that she quickly learned “the error and evil of segregation.” Twice during her story, she recited the words from a song she was taught in Sunday school called “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” For Ayers and her family, all people are children of God, but that belief was not common or popular in the 1960s in Birmingham, Alabama, she recalled.

To illustrate how times have changed and how some progress has been made since the Civil Rights Movement, Ayers concluded with a story of herself, a Caucasian woman, holding hands and praying with an African-American woman. Both were in the waiting room of a hospital in Birmingham, Alabama in September of 2008 where the two had very ill family members in intensive care. Ayers shared that although she did not have a playmate when she was a young girl, she did find a “praymate” 45 years later.

The Art of Memory series is presented by the Lewis University History Center: Urban, Cultural and Catholic History of the Upper Midwest, which supports a biannual symposium. It is also a part of Lewis University’s Arts & Ideas Program, providing cultural and educational programming for students and the community. These events are free of charge and open to the public. For further information, please contact Dr. Ewa Bacon at (815) 836-5568.

A Catholic university sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis offers nearly 80 undergraduate majors and programs of study, accelerated degree completion options for working adults, various aviation programs and 22 graduate programs in nine fields. The ninth largest private, not-for-profit university in Illinois is being honored for the sixth consecutive year by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report.

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