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Vanderbilt Hosts Black History Legends

Honorable Andrew Young
2015 MLK Keynote Speaker

Andrew Young Jr. is a Diplomat, Educator, Civil Rights Activist, Mayor, Pastor, U.S. Representative (1932–)

On March 12, 1932, Andrew Jackson Young Jr., known as Andrew Young Jr., was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. The product of a middle-class family—his father was a dentist, his mother a teacher—he had to travel from his neighborhood to attend segregated schools. After graduating from Howard University, Young chose to study at Connecticut’s Hartford Theological Seminary. In 1955, he became an ordained minister.

Working as a pastor in Georgia, Young first became part of the Civil Rights Movement when he

The Honorable Andrew Young Jr. organized voter registration drives. He moved to New York City to work with the National Council of Churches in 1957, then returned to Georgia in 1961 to help lead the “citizenship schools” that tutored African Americans in literacy, organizing and leadership skills. Though the schools were a success, Young sometimes had trouble connecting with the rural students in the program.

As the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was running the citizenship school program, Young became a member of the organization and began working closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Within the SCLC, Young coordinated desegregation efforts throughout the South, including the May 3, 1963 march against segregation during which participants were attacked by police dogs. King valued Young’s work, trusting Young to oversee the SCLC when protests meant that King had to spend time behind bars.

In 1964, Young became the SCLC’s executive director. While in this position, he helped draw up the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was with King in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, the day of King’s assassination. Following King’s death, Young became executive vice president of the SCLC.

In 1970, Young left the SCLC to make a run for Congress, but was defeated at the polls. Two years later, he ran again, and this time was elected to the House of Representatives. Young was the first African American to represent Georgia in Congress since Reconstruction. In his time as a legislator, he supported programs for the poor, educational initiatives and human rights.

During Jimmy Carter’s run for the presidency, Young offered key political support; when Carter was in office, he chose Young to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Young left his seat in Congress to take the position. While ambassador, he advocated for human rights on a global scale, such as sanctions to oppose rule by apartheid in South Africa.

In 1979, Young had to resign his ambassadorship, as he had met in secret with Zehdi Labib Terzi, the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s U.N. observer. The resignation did not keep Young from being elected as Atlanta’s mayor in 1981. After two terms as mayor, he failed in his attempt to secure the Democratic nomination to run for governor of Georgia. However, Young was successful in his campaign for Atlanta to host the Olympic Games in 1996.

Young wrote about his role in the fight for civil rights in two books: A Way Out of No Way (1994) and An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America (1996). He has also written Walk in My Shoes: Conversations Between a Civil Rights Legend and His Godson on the Journey Ahead (2010). He continues to fight for equality and economic justice with a consulting firm, Good Works International, that supports development initiatives, particularly in Africa and the Caribbean.

As an esteemed civil rights activist, Young has received accolades that include the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Springarn Medal. Morehouse College named the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership in his honor, and Young has taught at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.

Harry Belafonte
2015 Chancellor’s Lecture Series

The oldest son of Caribbean immigrants, Harry Belafonte Jr. spent his early years in New York City. His mother worked as a dressmaker and a house cleaner, and his father served as a cook in the British Royal Navy. As a young child, Belafonte’s parents divorced. The boy was sent to Jamaica, his mother’s native country, to live with relatives. There, he saw firsthand the oppression of blacks by the English authorities, which left a lasting impression on him.


Belafonte returned to New York City’s Harlem neighborhood in 1939 to live with his mother.They struggled in poverty, and Belafonte was often cared for by others while his mother worked. “The most difficult time in my life was when I was a kid,” he later told People magazine. “My mother gave me affection, but, because I was left on my own, also a lot of anguish.”

Dropping out of high school, Belafonte enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944. He served in the Pacific during the end of World War II. After being discharged from the service, Belafonte returned to New York City. He seemed directionless for a time, working a series of odd jobs. But Belafonte soon found his career inspiration after attending a performance of the American Negro Theater.

So moved by the performance, Belafonte decided that he wanted to become an actor. He studied drama at the Dramatic Workshop run by Erwin Piscator. His classmates included Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau and Rod Steiger. Belafonte appeared in numerous American Negro Theater productions, but he caught his first big break, singing for a class project. He impressed Monte Kay, who offered Belafonte the opportunity to perform at a jazz club called the Royal Roost. Backed by such talented musicians as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, Belafonte became a popular act at the club. In 1949, he landed his first recording deal.

By 1950, Belafonte had switched his musical style, dropping popular music from his repertoire in favor of folk. He became an avid student of traditional folk songs from around the world, and started appearing in such New York City folk clubs as the Village Vanguard.

Debuting on Broadway in 1953, Belafonte won a Tony Award for his performance in John Murray Anderson’s Almanac, in which he performed several of his own songs. He also appeared in another well-received musical revue, 3 for Tonight, in 1955.

Around this time, Belafonte launched his film career. He played a school principal opposite Dorothy Dandridge in his first movie, Bright Road (1953). The pair reunited the following year for Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones, a film adaptation of the Broadway musical. Oscar Hammerstein II had written the musical as a contemporary, African-American version of the opera Carmen, by Georges Bizet. Belafonte received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Joe, a soldier who falls for the title character, played by Dandridge.

The success of Carmen Jones made Belafonte a star, and soon he became a music sensation. After signing with RCA Victor Records, he released Calypso (1956), an album featuring his take on traditional Caribbean folk music. “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” proved to be proved a huge hit. More than just a popular tune, it also had a special meaning for Belafonte. “That song is a way of life,” Belafonte later told The New York Times. “It’s a song about my father, my mother, my uncles, the men and women who toil in the banana fields, the cane fields of Jamaica.”

Calypso introduced America to a new genre of music, and became the first album to sell more than one million copies. Belafonte also worked with other folk artists, including Bob Dylan and the legendary Odetta. The pair sang their version of the traditional children’s song “There’s a Hole in My Bucket.” In 1961, Belafonte had another big hit with “Jump in the Line.”

Belafonte proved to be a ground-breaker in another realm as well: He became the first African-American television producer, working on numerous musical shows. In the early 1970s, Belafonte teamed up with singer Lena Horne for a one-hour special.

Sheryll Cashin
2015 MLK Lunchtime Symposium
Keynote Speaker


Sheryll Cashin, Professor of Law at Georgetown University, teaches Administrative Law, Constitutional Law, and Race and American Law among other subjects. She writes about race relations, government and inequality in America. Her new book, Place Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America (forthcoming Beacon Press, 2014), argues that affirmative action as currently practiced does little to help disadvantaged people and offers a new framework for true inclusion. Her book, The Failures of Integration (PublicAffairs, 2004) was an Editors’ Choice in the New York Times Book Review. Cashin is also a two-time nominee for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for non-fiction (2005 and 2009). She has published widely in academic journals and written commentaries for several periodicals, including the L.A. Times, Washington Post, and Education Week.

Cashin is an active member of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) and Building ONE America, an emerging national network of state and regional coalitions promoting sustainable growth and social inclusion. She has published widely in academic journals and print media, including in the L.A.Times, Washington Post, and Education Week. She has appeared on NPR All Things Considered, NPR Talk of the Nation, The Diane Rehm Show, The Tavis Smiley Show, The Newshour With Jim Leher, CNN, BET, ABC News, and numerous local programs.

Professor Cashin worked in the Clinton White House as an advisor on urban and economic policy, particularly concerning community development in inner-city neighborhoods. She was law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She graduated summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. As a Marshall Scholar, she went on to receive a masters in English Law, with honors, from Oxford University and a J.D., with honors, from Harvard Law School, where she was a member of the Harvard Law Review.

Cashin was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, where her parents were political activists. She is married to Marque Chambliss and the mother of twin boys, Logan and Langston.


Danny Glover
2014 MLK Keynote Speaker

Actor, producer, and humanitarian Danny Glover has been a commanding presence on screen, stage and television for more than 25 years. As an actor, his film credits range from The Color Purple, Dream Girls, Beloved, Places In the Heart, Grand Canyon, and of course the blockbuster Lethal Weapon franchise.

Danny Glover

Glover has also gained respect for his wide-reaching community activism and philanthropic efforts, with a particular emphasis on advocacy for economic justice, and access to health care and education programs in the United States and Africa. For these efforts, Glover received a 2006 DGA Honor. Internationally, Glover has served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program from 1998-2004, focusing on issues of poverty, disease, and economic development in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and currently serves as UNICEF Ambassador.




Author/Civil Rights Activist
2013 MLK Keynote Speaker

Michelle Alexander is a longtime civil rights advocate and litigator. She won a 2005 Soros Justice Fellowship and now holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Mortiz College of Law at Ohio State University. Alexander served for several years as director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California,

Michelle Alexander

and subsequently directed the Civil Rights Clinics at Stanford Law School, where she was an associate professor. Alexander is a former law clerk for Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court, and has appeared as a commentator on CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is her first book.



U.S. Congressman John Lewis
Vanderbilt University
2012 Keynote Speaker

U.S. Congressman John Lewis


Often called ”one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced,” John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls “The Beloved Community” in America.

He was born the son of sharecroppers on February 21, 1940, outside of Troy, Alabama.  He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County, Alabama.  As a young boy, he was inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which he heard on radio broadcasts.  In those pivotal moments, he made a decision to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement.

As a student at American Baptist College, John Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee.  In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis risked his life on those Rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for white patrons.  He was also beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South.

During the height of the Movement, Lewis was named Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form. At the age of 23, he was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963. In 1964, John Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer. The following year, Lewis helped spearhead one of the most seminal moments of the Civil Rights Movement.   Hosea Williams, another notable Civil Rights leader, and John Lewis led over 600 peaceful, orderly protesters across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965.  They intended to march from Selma to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state.  The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday.”   News broadcasts and photographs revealing the senseless cruelty of the segregated South helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence.

In 1981, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. While serving on the Council, he was an advocate for ethics in government and neighborhood preservation. He was elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since then. He is Senior Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House, a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and Chairman of its Subcommittee on Oversight.

John Lewis holds a B.A. in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University, and he is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary, both in Nashville, Tennessee. He has been awarded numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities and is the recipient of numerous other awards, including the Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford’s Theatre, the Capital Award of the National Council of La Raza,  the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize, the NAACP Spingarn Medal, and the John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage Award” for Lifetime Achievement. The Timberland Company has developed the John Lewis Award, which honors the commitment to humanitarian service by acknowledging members of society who perform outstanding humanitarian work.  And the company has established a John Lewis Scholarship Fund.

John Lewis co-authored his biography with writer Michael D’Orso, entitled Walking With The Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. Other books about his life include: Freedom Riders:  John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement, by Ann Bausum  and John Lewis in the Lead , by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson.   John Lewis has also been featured in many books about the civil rights movement, including The Children by David Halberstam and the Taylor Branch series on the Movement.  He has been interviewed for numerous documentaries, news broadcasts, and journals.

Julian Bond (1940-2015)
Vanderbilt University 2011
MLK Keynote Speaker

Julian Bond

From his college days as a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to his Chairmanship of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the late Julian Bond had been an active participant in the movements for civil rights, economic justice, and peace and an aggressive spokesman for the disinherited.

As an activist who has faced jail for his convictions, as a veteran of more than twenty years of service in the Georgia General Assembly, as a writer, teacher, and lecturer, Bond had been on the cutting edge of social change since he was a college student leading sit-in demonstrations in Atlanta in 1960.

Horace Julian Bond was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in January 1940. His father, the late Dr. Horace Mann Bond, was the first President of Fort Valley State College in Fort Valley, Georgia. In 1945, Dr. Bond became the first Black President of the country’s oldest Black private college, Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University, and the Bond family lived at Lincoln until 1957 when Dr. Bond became Dean of the School of Education at Atlanta University.

Julian Bond graduated from the George School, a co-educational Quaker school in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1957, and entered Morehouse College in Atlanta that same year.

While at Morehouse, Bond won a varsity letter as a member of the Morehouse swimming team, helped to found a literary magazine called The Pegasus, and was an intern for Time magazine.

While still a student, Bond was a founder in 1960 of the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR), the Atlanta University Center student civil rights organization that directed three years of nonviolent anti-segregation protests that won integration of Atlanta’s movie theaters, lunch counters, and parks. Bond was arrested for sitting-in at the then-segregated cafeteria at Atlanta City Hall.

He was one of several hundred students from across the South who helped to form SNCC on Easter Weekend, 1960, and shortly thereafter became SNCC’s Communications Director, heading the organization’s printing and publicity departments, editing the SNCC newsletter, The Student Voice, and working in voter registration drives in rural Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

Bond left Morehouse one semester short of graduation in 1961 to join the staff of a new protest newspaper, The Atlanta Inquirer. He later became the paper’s managing editor.

Bond returned to Morehouse in 1971 to graduate, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

Bond was first elected in 1965 to a one-year term in the Georgia House of Representatives in a special election following court-ordered reapportionment of the legislature, but members of the House voted not to seat him because of his outspoken opposition to the war in Vietnam.

Bond won a second election, to fill his vacant seat, in 1966, and again the Georgia House voted to bar him from membership. He won a third election, this time for a two-year term, in November, 1966, and in December the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Georgia House had violated Bond’s rights in refusing him his seat.

Bond ultimately served four terms in the House and six terms in the Senate. In the Senate, Bond became the first Black Chair of the Fulton County Senate Delegation, the largest and most diverse in the upper house, and was Chairman of the Committee on Consumer Affairs and a member of the Committees on Human Resources, Governmental Operations, and Children and Youth.

During his service in the Georgia General Assembly, Bond was sponsor or co-sponsor of more than 60 bills which became law, including a pioneer sickle cell anemia testing program, authorization of a minority set-aside program for Fulton County, and a state-wide program providing low-interest home loans to low income Georgians. He waged a successful two-year fight in the legislature and the courts to create a majority black congressional district in Atlanta and organized the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, then the nation’s largest.

In 1968, Bond was Co-Chairman of the Georgia Loyal National Delegation to the Democratic Convention. The Loyalists, an insurgent group, were successful in unseating the handpicked regulars, and Bond was nominated for Vice  President of the United States, the first Black to be so honored by a major political party. He withdrew his name because he was too young to serve.

He held honorary degrees from twenty-three schools, including Dalhousie University, University of Bridgeport, Wesleyan University, University of Oregon, Syracuse University, Eastern Michigan University, Lincoln University (PA), Wilberforce College, Patterson State College, New Hampshire College, Detroit Institute of Technology, Howard University,  Edward Waters College, Morgan State University, Gonzaga School of Law, Bates College, California State University at Monterey Bay, Northeastern University, Audrey Cohen College, Washington University, Susquehanna University, and Ramapo College.

Bond was Chairman of the Premier Auto Group (PAG) (Volvo, Land Rover, Aston-Martin, Jaguar) Diversity Council and on the Advisory Boards of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Corporation for Maintaining Editorial Diversity in America, the Nicaragua/Honduras Education Project, the Earth Communications Office, the National Federation for Neighborhood Diversity, the Southern Africa Media Center, the Joan Shorenstein Barone Center of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the Center for Visionary Thought Advisory Team and on the Advisory Committees of the American Committee on Africa and the Human Rights Defense Fund.

Bond had served four terms on the NAACP National Board and since 1998 had been Board Chairman. He was on the Advisory Board of the Harvard Business School Initiative on Social Enterprise, the Oliver White Hill Foundation, the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and the Board of the NAACP’s Magazine, The Crisis, and the Council for a Livable World. He was President of the Atlanta NAACP from 1978 until 1989. He was President Emeritus of the Southern Poverty Law Center and served on its Board until his death.


Earl Lloyd (1928-2015)
First African American in the
National Basketball Association (NBA)

Earl Lloyd

Earl Francis Lloyd (1928-2015) was the first African-American to play in the National Basketball Association, in the 1950-51 NBA season.[1] Three other African Americans played in the same season: Chuck Cooper, Nathaniel Clifton, and Hank DeZonie.
Lloyd, a forward known for his defense, played at West Virginia State College, was selected in the ninth-round of the 1950 NBA Draft by the Washington Capitols. On October 31, 1950, Lloyd became the first African-American to play in an NBA game, against the Rochester Royals.  Lloyd led West Virginia State to two CIAA Conference and Tournament Championships in 1948 and 1949. He was named All-Conference three times (1948–50) and was All-American twice, as named by the Pittsburgh Courier (1949–50). As a senior, he averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds per game, while leading West Virginia State to a second place finish in the CIAA Conference and Tournament Championship. In 1947-48, West Virginia State was the only undefeated team in the United States.  Nicknamed “The Big Cat”, Lloyd was one of three African-Americans to enter the NBA at the same time. It was only because of the order in which the teams’ season openers fell that Lloyd was the first to actually play in a game in the NBA. The date was October 31, 1950, one day ahead of Cooper of the Boston Celtics and four days before Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton of the New York Knicks. Lloyd played in over 560 games in nine seasons, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound forward averaged 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

Lloyd played in only seven games for the Washington Capitols before the team folded on January 9, 1951. He then went into the U.S. Army at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before the Syracuse Nationals picked him up on waivers. He spent six seasons with Syracuse and two with the Detroit Pistons before retiring in 1960.  Lloyd retired ranked 43rd in career scoring with 4,682 points. His best year was 1955, when he averaged 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds for Syracuse, which beat the Fort Wayne Pistons 4-3 for the NBA title. Lloyd and Jim Tucker were the first African-Americans to play on an NBA championship team.  Lloyd once said; “In 1950, basketball was like a babe in the woods; it didn’t enjoy the notoriety that baseball enjoyed.” Like Lloyd, Clifton and Cooper had solid but not spectacular careers.  According to Detroit News sportswriter Jerry Green, in 1965 Detroit Pistons General Manager Don Wattrick wanted to hire Lloyd as the team’s head coach. It would have made Lloyd the first African-American head coach in American pro sports. Dave DeBusschere was instead named Pistons player–coach. From 1972 to 1973, Lloyd did coach the Pistons and was a scout for five seasons.


Dr. Eugene Richardson


Dr. Eugene Richardson
Original Tuskegee Airman

Eugene Richardson became interested in flight as a young boy in 1930 when his father and a friend took him along to see the Colored Air Circus, a group of Negro aviators performing an airshow in Mansfield Ohio. Driven by pure interest to fly, he decided to join the Army Air Corps in order to become a pilot. When he turned 17, he went to the Customs House at 2nd and Chestnut here in Philadelphia where he signed up to take a pilot qualification test. His father was actually against his decision to train as a pilot, but he eventually gave his permission and signed the parental permission papers needed since Richardson was still under age. He passed the test and a few months later at the age of 18 he was sent to Keesler Field in Mississippi for 3 months of basic training. From Keesler he went on to Tuskegee Army Air Field for 40 weeks of training(10 weeks. of pre-flight, 10 weeks of primary, 10 weeks of basic, 10 weeks of advanced). Tuskegee held the civilian contract for pilot training for the Army Air Corps at that time and had 42 Negro civilian instructors. White trainees went to different bases for their 10-week training segments. The Negro aviators stayed at Tuskegee for all 40 weeks. After Tuskegee, he went to Eglin for gunnery training and then to Walterboro, SC for combat training. At Walterboro, Richardson learned to fly P-40′s and P-47 aircraft. While he and 37 others finished their flight training in March 1945, the war ended in the European Theater just 2 months later so they never saw any combat. Richardson is not sorry about that. ” I didn’t want to go kill anybody or get killed. I just wanted to fly.” Of the 38 pilots in his class, 23 including Richardson graduated as fighter pilots and 15 as B-25 bomber pilots. His most memorable experiences as a pilot were his first solo flight, the first formation flight and the completion of his first simulated combat mission. He also recalled one flight during which he had to return to base immediately after takeoff because the oil temperature gauge pegged itself at overtemp. It turned out that the engine had completely lost all its oil. Richardson got the plane, a P-47, back on the ground before the engine seized. During combat training at Walterboro, the pilots flew twice a day, every day, weather permitting. A typical training flight would last about 2 hours with about 30 minutes of pre-flight briefing and plane checkout before wheels-up. Dr. Richardson was discharged in July 1946. He returned to Philadelphia where he finished his high school degree at then Temple High School. He did his undergraduate work at Temple and got his Masters’ and D.Ed at Penn State. He pursued a successful career in education in the Philadelphia School System. He did not pursue a career in Aviation after his discharge from the service because, “there was nowhere for a Black aviator to go in the United States – only Tuskegee.” An interesting anecdote: Richardson’s son , Eugene Richardson III was also a fighter pilot, and is now the Boeing 777 Fleet Standards Manager with American Airlines. He is responsible for the training and certification of pilots for the 777, and all procedures for the aircraft in flying to airports throughout the world. Dr. Eugene Richardson resides in the West Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia and regularly visits schools telling the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.