Civil rights leader and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Rev. C.T. Vivian is the subject of new college course offerings this semester. The curriculum, pushed by friends of the activist and educators, is currently offered in at least seven colleges in Georgia and one in Louisiana. The goal: to get these courses in at least 50 schools nationwide by the end of the year.
A champion for voting and civil rights, Vivian died in his Atlanta home last year at the age of 95. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Martin Luther King Jr. once called him the “the greatest preacher to ever live.” Before taking the course, some students were unfamiliar with the Reverend’s work, despite him leading many of the most important events in the Civil Rights Movement with a confrontational but non-violent ideology.
“It provides us a lot of good information on Black history and what we weren’t taught in our history classes,” said 19-year-old Tre Mason from University of West Georgia.
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In Georgia, Emory University and Kennesaw State University are among the schools offering courses based on Vivian’s teachings. Louisiana State University at Shreveport is also part of the effort.
Vivian began staging sit-ins against segregation in Peoria, Illinois, in the 1940s. He met King soon after the budding civil rights leader’s leadership of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and helped organize the Freedom Rides that forced federal intervention across the South.
Vivian boldly challenged a segregationist sheriff while trying to register Black voters in Selma, Alabama, where hundreds, then thousands, later marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
As cameras rolled, the sheriff punched him. News coverage of the assault helped turned a local registration drive into a national phenomenon.
In a time when critical race theory debates have dominated what students are allowed to learn of the fight for racial justice, some feel the courses are timely.
“The life and work of C.T. Vivian provides a useful case study and a template for action that will both educate and inspire the next generation of servant leaders,” said former Spelman College President Beverly Tatum, according to the Journal-Constitution.