Friday Morning Continuing Education presents 'Eyewitness to History'

October 4, 2019 | UHCL Staff

Friday Morning Continuing Education presents 'Eyewitness to History'

Anita Parrott George’s remarkable work advocating for social justice and civil rights spans six decades. Parrott, a native-born Mississippian, will share her life experiences as an African American child who came of age during the civil rights movement in a special University of Houston-Clear Lake Friday Morning Continuing Education program titled, “Eyewitness to History: Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi” on Nov. 1 at 11 a.m.

“During my coming of age in Vicksburg, I started to become aware of racism in its ugliest forms and began a lifetime of listening to the old folks talk, observing racism that was not really clear to me,” George said. “We were Episcopalians, and we sat in church every Sunday morning and it occurred to me at that time that we were saying the same prayers and reciting the same creed, but on Monday morning, we go out and we don’t love each other the way Christians are supposed to do. Those incongruencies slapped me, and when I went to college, my activism started.”

George said in 1957, when she had been president of her college freshman class, she became a leader in a movement against a certain professor known to be openly racist. “We asked the university to look into this issue regarding this faculty member, and the college ended up closing for two weeks,” she said. “To my knowledge, that was the first insurrection of its type in the state at a predominantly black university. This is a story that is still relevant and needs to be told and retold on college campuses.”

A full account of the story will be presented during her presentation.

“One of the things I learned during this time is how important it was to listen to the stories I heard growing up,” she said. “Listening to those stories, and then being part of a movement myself, I realized the past and the present are so connected, and the importance of passing along those stories.”

She said that to this day, she still sees threads from slavery that remain. “Often, young people don’t realize how important it is to see those connecting threads,” she said. “They need to have their history. That’s why I do this work. It’s important for young people to have a sense of what happened before.”

She added that her name would not be found on any records of outstanding civil rights advocates. “I am an ordinary person in the background, and there were so many of us, trying to make it possible for the leaders to attack big problems,” she said.

After finishing college and beginning a new job as a high school teacher at age 22, George taught students who sometimes were older than her. “A lot of those students never got to finish a full year because they had to go and plant and pick cotton,” she said. “One year, I remember a plantation owner coming to my class. He ignored me and looked at young men and told them to leave with him immediately. I asked him who he was and where he was taking them. He turned around and said, ‘Where’d you come from, girl? These are my boys.’”

Despite her protests, the man took the students and her principal later told her she should probably leave the area.

“I did leave at the end of the term,” she said. “You’re just hearing me tell my story. There’s no written history or validation for it. As I talk about the student insurrection, I have done some research and found some things in the news media that I have and will share. But in the mainstream, our stories were not told, and that’s why it’s so important to speak about them. Otherwise, no one would hear them.”

George has spent the rest of her life in education, ultimately achieving a doctorate in education and is now professor emerita from Mississippi State University in Starkville. “I hope people listen to my story and not just with their ears, but with their eyes and minds and hearts,” she said.

Find out more about the Friday Morning Continuing Education online or call 281-283-3033.


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