Joan Holmes, a professor in the department of Africana studies, played an active role in the civil rights movement in the 1960s that helped change the face of the United States. She even participated in a lunch boycott in the 1960s, where three of her classmates were shot and killed by the Army National Guard.
She, along with others, spoke to a crowd of about 100 in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center on Thursday at a ceremony honoring the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott. The speakers honored the people who have contributed to the civil rights movement over the years and spoke about their hopes for the future.
The Montgomery bus boycott played a large part in the movement and helped to end the separate-but-equal laws. The boycott started in December 1955 and continued for a year.
Holmes noted her experiences with the Jim Crowe laws that were ubiquitous in the South at that time.
“I went to the colored theaters, the colored drinking fountains and the colored bus stops. I lived it, and the passion never leaves you. As you become educated, (that passion) is transformed into a different form of energy,” Holmes said.
She said she feels fortunate to be able to inform and educate students about important issues they may never have experienced.
Eric D. Duke, an instructor in the Africana studies department, said that he hopes students receive a better understanding of the civil rights movement as a whole from this event.
“Too often we think of the Montgomery bus boycott as simply the arrest of Rosa Parks, or we think of the movement as only involving Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. What we hope to show is how the movement itself was built upon the effects and efforts of many African Americans, both men and women,” Duke said.
He noted that there were boycotts and protests throughout the South before the Montgomery bus boycott.
“The Montgomery bus boycott shows us the power of a determined people to make a change, and it shows us that the will of the people has to come from a broad base,” Duke said.
Another common thread among the speeches Thursday was the difficulty of people who have not experienced racism to understand its effects.
Jasmine Honeysucker, a member of the Black Student Union, said that she got involved to show a display of unity and to show USF students and the Tampa Bay community that this generation cares about its past, present and future.
“This event has set off so many changes and has helped us move forward, (and) we need to remember it to better our future,” Honeysucker said.
Ted Williams of the Diversity and Equal Opportunity Office said that the civil rights movement has yet to fully reach its goals.
“Despite improvements – race continues to be a powerful and often dividing factor,” Williams said.
Many of the speakers addressed that this anniversary was not necessarily a “celebration” because the civil rights movement still has much to accomplish.
“Hopefully we will be continuing this event next year and we can get more people to come out,” said Chad Douglas, USF’s NAACP chapter president. “Especially if we get more diversity in the people that come out, then we will be able to celebrate.”