On Brown Anniversary, Steinhardt Hosts Civil Rights Activist Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Writer Calvin Trillin

On May 17th, the 59th anniversary of the Brown decision, the Department of Teaching and Learning hosted Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Calvin Trillin for a conversation on civil rights.

Hunter-Gault and the late Hamilton Holmes – with the support of an all-star legal team– desegregated the University of Georgia in 1961.  An award-winning journalist, she is the author of  In My Place, and To The Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement.

Trillin best known as a humorist, food, and travel writer —  wrote a series of articles for The New Yorker on the UG desegregation in the 1960s and published them as An Education in Georgia: Charlayne Hunter, Hamilton Holmes, and the Integration of the University of Georgia.

The event was the final session of the Teaching American History workshop series for New York City public school teachers, and was co-sponsored by NYU, the New York City Department of Education, and the New York Historical Society.

“Our goal is to connect teachers to the best scholarship in American history so that they can become more effective history teachers,” said Robby Cohen, professor of social studies education in Steinhardt’s Department of Teaching and Learning, and lead historian on this federally funded professional development program.

“Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Calvin Trillin have written very powerful books about the black freedom movement and the struggle to implement the Brown decision, to tear down the color line in public education.  Charlayne lived this history, which makes her story all the more compelling for our teachers,” Cohen said.

The session was attended by teachers from NYU’s partnerships schools, as well as NYU America Reads tutors. Prior sessions sessions led by renowned historians — including Eric Foner, Linda Greenhouse, Linda Kerber, Richard Bernstein, Maeva Marcus, Waldo Martin, and Melvyn Urofsky — focused on U.S. constitutional history.

Hunter-Gault offered the audience a vivid portrait of her coming-of-age as a civil rights activist.  After, she took questions from the audience on a range of topics, and encouraged teachers to engage deeply with their students.

“You might have to be the mother, the father, and the auntie,” Hunger-Gault said.  “What goes on in your classroom could save a kid from a dangerous and unproductive life.”


(Photos:  Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Calvin Trillin:  Debra Weinstein/NYU Steinhardt)