Annual Peace Studies Conference focuses on Civil Rights Movement

October 3, 2013

Joan Trumpauer Mulholland

Dr. Bernard Lafayette

Video of Evening Lecture

The 26th Annual Peace Studies Conference will be held from 1 to 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, in the Quadrangle Building and Stephen B. Humphrey Theater, Saint John's University.

The theme of the conference is "Acting on Faith: Nonviolence and the Struggle for Interracial Justice, Then and Now." The conference, organized by the peace studies department at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, is free and open to the public.

The conference will feature the following sessions:

  • The movie "Freedom Riders" will be shown at 1 p.m. in Quad 264 and a discussion will be led by the Black Student Association of CSB and SJU. The movie is the story behind a courageous band of civil rights activists called Freedom Riders who in 1961 challenged segregation in the American South. It features two of the presenters at the Peace Studies Conference - Joan Trumpauer Mulholland and Bernard Lafayette.
  • The movie "An Ordinary Hero," which is a film about Joan Trumpauer Mulholland and her fight in the Civil Rights Movement, will be shown at 3:30 p.m. in Quad 264. She will be at the screening, lead a discussion and answer questions about her experiences. Mulholland was a white teenager raised in the South who wanted to raise awareness about generations of social injustice. She spent months in prison during the Freedom Rides, and stood shoulder to shoulder with the great moral heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. 
  • Mathew Ahmann, a 1949 graduate of Saint John's Preparatory School and a 1952 SJU graduate, will be awarded posthumously the Colman J. Barry Award for Distinguished Contributions to Religion and Society by Saint John's University in honor of his leadership and participation in the Civil Rights Movement and for his lifelong commitment to social justice. The award will be presented at 5:30 p.m. during a private dinner.
    A native of St. Cloud, Minn., Ahmann organized the National Conference on Religion and Race in 1963. His success in leading this conference led to his appointment as one of the 10 chairmen for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963. Ahmann gave a speech during the March on Washington just minutes before the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I have a dream" address. He may be one of the least known but most important figures in the history of Catholic support for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Ahmann died in 2001.
    The Rev. Colman J. Barry was president of SJU from 1964-71. He left an enormous legacy at Saint John's, including the creation of Minnesota Public Radio, the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library and the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning. The Colman J. Barry Award for Distinguished Contributions to Religion and Society is given annually to those who believe and demonstrate that service to others, in its expansion of human understanding and extension of social justice, comprises the best in human achievement.
  • Gary Eichten, Minnesota Public Radio news editor-at-large and retired host, will lead a conversation with Bernard Lafayette at 7:30 p.m. in the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater. Lafayette currently teaches at Emory University and conducts nonviolence workshops worldwide.
    When he was 20, Lafayette was enrolled as an undergraduate at American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tenn. He helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960.
    A veteran of the Nashville sit-ins, Lafayette had already staged a successful impromptu Freedom Ride when in 1959, while traveling home for Christmas break, he and fellow student activist John Lewis decided to exercise their rights as interstate passengers by sitting in the front of a bus from Nashville to Birmingham, Ala. As part of the May 17 Nashville Student Movement Ride, Lafayette endured jail time in Birmingham, riots and fire bombings in Montgomery, Ala., an arrest in Jackson, Miss. and jail time at Parchman State Prison Farm during June 1961.
    He took on leadership as the National Program Administrator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference where he worked closely with King. Lafayette earned a doctorate in education from Harvard University and later served as the director of the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies and the University of Rhode Island.

More information about the conference can be found on the Peace Studies website.