NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University’s East Texas Historical Association will host civil rights activist Joan C. Browning during the Georgiana and Max S. Lale Lecture at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Grand Ballroom.
Browning is one of 436 people who were part of the Freedom Riders, a group of civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 and subsequent years to challenge the non-enforcement of Supreme Court decisions that ruled segregated public buses were unconstitutional.
The Freedom Riders were arrested, beaten and jailed, but despite their brutal receptions, they succeeded in taking down the “white” and “colored” signs in bus and train terminals and on buses and trains.
Alongside 177 other Freedom Riders, Browning appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and was one of 14 female Freedom Riders honored by the National Women’s Law Center at an event where former President Barack Obama met with the women.
Browning, who is white, grew up on a family farm in Telfair County, Georgia, working in tobacco, watermelon, cantaloupe and vegetable fields and picking cotton. She attended Georgia State College for Women in Milledgeville until 1961 when she had to leave for worshipping with blacks at Wesley Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in 1994 at West Virginia State College and completed courses toward a master’s degree in humanities/history at Marshall University.
In addition to being a Freedom Rider, Browning was a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee volunteer, worked in anti-poverty and social justice programs in the 1960s and 1970s, was an organizer of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, and served as treasurer of Georgians for Robert Kennedy.
Additionally, she served as special assistant to Andrea J. Pendleton, the first woman elected mayor of Rainelle, West Virginia, served 10 years on the Supreme Court of West Virginia’s Fatality Review Committee and chaired the West Virginia University Center for Women’s Studies Visiting Committee. She also served a term on the West Virginia Human Rights Commission.
Browning has received numerous awards and recognition for her work as an activist. Her experience as a 1960s Freedom Rider and social justice activist are described in “Shiloh Witness,” an autobiographic chapter in the volume “Deep In Our Hearts: Nine White Women in the Freedom Movement,” and her article “Invisible Revolutionaries: White Women in Civil Rights Movement Historiography” in the fall 1996 Journal of Women's History. She now writes and lectures about the struggle for freedom.
This event is free and open to the public. The ETHA presents this annual lecture through a generous grant from the late Max Sims Lale, a noted East Texas journalist, author and historian.
For more information, contact Dr. Scott Sosebee, SFA associate professor of history, at email@example.com or (936) 468-2407.