Advocates and academics in Hattiesburg are working together to preserve the history of a lesser known civil rights hero. MPB's Ashley Norwood reports.
A group of professors at the University of Southern Mississippi is hoping a new marker on campus honoring Clyde Kennard will strengthen the community's commitment to social justice and equity. Kennard's Freedom Trail marker is being unveiled today on the lawn outside of the building where he first attempted to enroll at the then-all-white college in 1955. Although never admitted, some say he was a catalyst for the desegregation of the school 10 years later.
USM Professor Sherita Johnson.
"He was persistent in his pursuit of education. And that kind of persistence to understand how important education is to your life, is one thing that resonates historically with the African American population," said Johnson.
In 1959, Kennard was arrested and spent seven years in Parchman for a crime he did not commit. Sovereignty Commission documents, published by the Clarion Ledger in 2005, revealed he was framed. He became terminally ill and died months after being released.
Dr. Leslie-Burl McLemore is a civil rights veteran and chair of the Freedom Trail Task Force.
"It's one of these sore spots that we will have to deal with as a state for the rest our existence. He paid a great price for just simply trying to get an education at an institution of higher learning in his home state in his hometown," said McLemore.
USM Professor Johnson says the group will be a premiering a film on the life of Clyde Kennard February 21 at the Hattiesburg Convention Center. The event is free and open to the public.