Southwest Tennessee Community College

For Immediate Release

Date: January 29, 2009

For More Information: Pat O’Brien, (901) 333-4021


Noted Educator to Receive Carter G. Woodson Award Honoring Civil Rights Work

Dr. Leslie B. McLemore, professor of political science and dean of the graduate school at Jackson State University (Mississippi) will be awarded the 21st annual Carter G. Woodson Award of Merit in ceremonies at Southwest Tennessee Community College on February 3. The award is presented in recognition of the recipient’s longstanding commitment to preserving and promoting the African-American presence in, and contribution to, the United States; and who supports Dr. Woodson’s legacy of “historical accuracy through inclusion.”

The award ceremony, free and open to the public, will be held at the Union Avenue Campus theater, 737 Union Avenue, starting at 10:45 a.m. Dr. LaDonna Young, interim department chair of Education, will make the presentation. Shawn Little, 2009 honors graduate and president of the Southwest Honors Academy, will give the welcome, Middle College High School students Ural Grant, Tony Todd and Jabril Avery will present “Reflections on the Theme,” and Associate Professor Evelyn Little and Assistant Professor Levi Frazier of the Fine Arts, Languages and Literature Department, will give a “Tribute to Fannie.” Southwest President Nathan Essex will present remarks closing the ceremony.

Dr. McLemore is a lifelong activist in the Civil Rights Movement starting in the 1960s, and a graduate of Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Following his graduation, he worked statewide as a staff member for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party as a Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) student field secretary. He described participation in the civil rights movement as a “world unto itself. Even though there are no blood ties, the philosophical ties are incredible.”

In 1963, he first met and developed a philosophical connection with Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer. According to Dr. McLemore, “She was dynamic. Miss Hamer sang gospel songs and freedom songs – participating in role-playing and simulations in the workshop. I was really impressed with her, and it was a moment in my life that I’ll never forget.” In 1998, Dr. McLemore became the founding director of the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute on Citizenship and Democracy. The mission of the institute is to promote positive social change by examining the tools and experiences of those who struggle to create, expand, and sustain civil rights, social justice, and citizenship.

As a teacher, researcher, lecturer, and civil rights activist, Dr. McLemore is the authority on the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and was vice-chair of its original delegation to the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. He has a Ph.D. degree from the University of Massachusetts, a master’s from Atlanta University, and is an authority on the Southern civil rights movement and social movements in Africa. Dr. McLemore also has been a post-doctoral fellow at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University, and the Institute for Southern History at Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. McLemore has served as acting director of the University Center in Jackson, chair of the Mississippi Humanities Council, vice-chair of the Board of the Federation of State Humanities Councils, and president of the Council of Historically Black Graduate Schools. He devotes time to mentoring young people and is the immediate past president of the Jackson Chapter of the 100 Black Men of America. Currently, he serves as president of the City Council of Jackson, Mississippi, a permanent member of the Governor’s Committee on Race Relations, and is dean of the graduate school at Jackson State. He is widely published in a variety of books and journals.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson was a graduate of Harvard and the Sorbonne, and founder of both the Association of Study of African-American Life and History, and of African-American History Week (now Month). A linguist and scholar, he worked meticulously and unceasingly to insure an accurate portrayal of the African and African-American in history, scientifically and accurately demonstrating the black contribution to life, history and culture in the United States and to world civilization. He did not believe in elevating black history to the neglect of others’ history. Rather, he said, “If you leave it to one group to extol the virtues of all groups, it won’t be long before only that group will have virtue.” But, he added, “History, if complete, accurate and honest, could help all of us rise above the race hatred of this age into the altruism of a rejuvenated universe.”

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