University Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Voting Rights Act of 1965
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., noted civil rights leader and human rights activist, was the keynote speaker today as 365 individuals celebrated their graduation at Morgan State University’s third December commencement. Today’s graduation exercises in the Hill Field House marked the University’s 50th anniversary commemoration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Fifty years ago, this important legislation made it possible for all people in this country, particularly African Americans, to exercise their right to vote, many for the first time,” said Dr. Wilson. “And as we pause to celebrate the 50 years since enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we are fortunate that our students were able to share in this milestone with one of the nation’s longtime champions of civil rights. Rev. Jackson’s messages of hope and inspiration are appropriate at this time in America’s history and for these young people who are celebrating the start of a new chapter in their lives.”
The Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson Sr. has long advocated for social justice and economic empowerment, the principles on which he established Operation PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity) in 1971. PUSH was organized to work for the economic improvement of African-American communities in the U.S. The organization later expanded its mission to be more inclusive, when it merged with Jackson’s newly formed National Rainbow Coalition, working for civil rights, peace and justice around the world. He has been called the “conscience of the nation” and “the great unifier.” Among his many honors is the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, presented by President Bill Clinton.
Ms. Autherine Lucy Foster, another civil rights pioneer, was the recipient today of the honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from Morgan for her role in helping to desegregate the University of Alabama. Foster enrolled in the University in 1952 and, after being expelled when it was learned she was African American, spent several years in court battles, finally graduating 40 years later. Morgan State’s civil rights pioneers were also honored in today’s ceremony, receiving the university’s highest recognition, the honorary Doctor of Laws degree, for helping launch what would become the nation’s first peaceful protest movement to achieve desegregation using mass sit-in demonstrations. These pioneers, Morgan students from 1947–1963, were responsible for desegregating theaters and lunch counters in Baltimore, including at the Northwood Shopping Center, across the street from the Morgan campus.
In all, a total of 365 undergraduate and graduate students received degrees during Morgan’s December 2015 commencement. A posthumous degree was awarded to Ms. Stacy L. Lockhart, who died earlier this year after meeting all of her requirements for graduation. Lockhart’s 12-year-old son accepted the degree on her behalf.
Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution offering more than 60 academic programs leading to bachelor’s degrees as well as programs at the master’s and doctoral levels. As Maryland’s public urban research university, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit www.morgan.edu.
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Clint Coleman or Larry Jones