Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Lecture Series

The Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Lecture Series, an annual event at Millsaps. Dr. John D. Bower, renal pioneer and friend of the late Nussbaum, endowed in 2008 the lecture series, which is dedicated to men and women who have stood against racial bigotry and religious prejudice.

Change from Within: Bringing Balance and Truth to the Historic Natchez Tableaux by Madeline Iles

Friday, April 15, Noon—Gertrude C. Ford Academic Complex, Room 215

Madeilne IlesMadeline Iles, senior history major at Millsaps, interned for Ed King, Jerry Mitchell, and Mississippi Public Broadcasting. These experiences and her interest in media as a tool for producing social change inspired her to film a documentary about her work to transform the traditional Natchez Tableaux. Throughout its 85 year history, the Tableaux had presented a romanticized view of the Old South. Madeline worked to showcase historical facts, linking the past to current issues of social justice. In addition to changing the program to acknowledge the South's defeat in the Civil War, Madeline pushed for the meaningful inclusion of African Americans in the program along with a frank representation of slavery. Madeline's project documents the unprecedented actions taken in 2015's Confederate Pageant and gives a first-hand view of social change in action.

Open to the public; free of charge.

Contact: Susan Womack

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2015 Lecture

The Courage of Their Convictions: Millsaps Students Resist the Status Quo

Friday, April 24
12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m.
Gertrude C. Ford Academic Complex, Room 215
Free and open to the public

The 2015 Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Lecture Series, which is dedicated to men and women who have stood against racial bigotry and religious prejudice, is entitled "The Courage of Their Convictions: Millsaps Students Resist the Status Quo,” honors Rabbi Nussbaum and others who have often been unrecognized for their contributions in standing for civil rights and social justice.

Throughout the College’s history, Millsaps students, with the support and encouragement of forward-thinking faculty, have opened their eyes, ears, and hearts to injustice in the world and the need for social change in their communities. A panel of Millsaps alumni and faculty will share their experiences in resisting the status quo and speaking out against the police violence on Jackson State University’s campus in 1967 and 1970 that left three black men dead and others wounded. What moved them to act? How do these historic events relate to current events? What can students and faculty learn from them?

Panelists: Tonny Algood, C’71; David Doggett, C’68; Jeanne Middleton-Hairston, C’71; Dr. T.W. Lewis, Professory Emeritus; Kay Sloan, C’71

The annual Rabbi Perry Nussbaum civil justice awards and lecture series honor Rabbi Nussbaum and other individuals, many of whom have gone unrecognized, for their selfless contributions to the civil rights movement in Mississippi and beyond. Beginning in 2014, the award and lecture series has been expanded to honor more contemporary work around civil and social justice issues. The Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Lecture Series has been graciously endowed at Millsaps College by John D. Bower, M.D.

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2014 Lecture

Bishop Clay F. Lee Jr. Speaks at Nussbaum Lecture

Bishop Clay F. Lee Jr.

Millsaps alumnus and United Methodist Bishop Clay F. Lee Jr. ('51) was the featured speaker for the 2014 Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Lecture Series, which is dedicated to men and women who have stood against racial bigotry and religious prejudice. He gave a lecture on Friday, April 4 at 12:30 p.m. in Robert and Dee Leggett Special Events Center in the A. Boyd Campbell College Center.

Lee was recently featured in a New York Times article focusing on a sermon he gave in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964 in which he invoked Herod describing the bigotry he saw.

“We are honored to have Bishop Clay F. Lee as the 2014 Rabbi Perry Nussbaum lecturer at Millsaps, as he is an exemplar of the College’s strategic plan goal to promote our heritage of social justice, freedom of thought, acceptance of diversity, and critical reflection on the most important questions in life,” said Mike Hutchison, vice president for institutional advancement.

The annual Rabbi Perry Nussbaum civil justice awards and lecture series honor Rabbi Nussbaum and other individuals, many of whom have gone unrecognized, for their selfless contributions to the civil rights movement in Mississippi and beyond.  Beginning in 2014, the award and lecture series has been expanded to honor more contemporary work around civil and social justice issues. 

Recipients of the 2014 awards include Dr. W. Charles Sallis for his civil rights work including co-writing and editing the first Mississippi history textbook to include an honest presentation of racial bigotry, violence, and oppression in the state; Sara del Castillo, a Millsaps senior honored for her work around immigrants’ rights; Rev. William P. Davis, honored posthumously for his leadership in Committee for Concern, a network of clergy who helped restore African American churches that were burned during the Civil Rights Movement; and Hazel Brannon Smith, honored posthumously for her work as a newspaper publisher and editor who won a Pulitzer Prize for her “steadfast adherence to her editorial duties in the face of great pressure and opposition” from the Holmes County Citizens’ Council, which had formed in 1954, and from its segregationist supporters.  The 2014 awards banquet will be held Thursday, April 3, 2014 followed by Bishop Lee’s lecture on Friday, April 4, 2014.

The Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Lecture Series has been graciously endowed at Millsaps College by John D. Bower, M.D.

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2013 Lecture

Civil Rights Leader Myrlie Evers Brings Message of Peace, Justice, Dialogue to Millsaps

Civil rights icon Myrlie Evers filled the Robert and Dee Leggett Special Events Center in the A. Boyd Campbell College Center on April 5 for the 2013 Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Lecture Series, urging students to embrace and recognize the history of social justice at Millsaps College, while remembering her past in the capital city. 

After the Nussbaum Lecture
Dean Dr. S. Keith Dunn, Myrlie Evers, student Chelsea Wright, and Dr. Rob Pearigen pose after the Nussbaum Lecture

"Millsaps has stood tall since the very beginning of (civil rights) dialogue sessions in Mississippi," she said. "For those of you that are students here, enjoy each and every moment and take in all the knowledge that is provided to you."

The lecture series, which is dedicated to men and women who have stood against racial bigotry and religious prejudice, was endowed by Dr. John D. Bower, a renal pioneer, in 2008 in honor of Nussbaum, rabbi at Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson from 1954 until 1974.

Remembering her years in Jackson, Evers reflected on her husband's murder and the legacy he left for others after him. "The 50th anniversary of Medgar's assassination will take place on June 12. I can hardly believe it's been 50 years," she said. "But, I look and I see changes and I realize a price had to be paid, not just by him but also by so many people to move us forward to where we are. Where we can have dialogue with each other and not be afraid that our differences will keep us from communicating."

Evers is perhaps best known as the widow of Medgar Evers, the Mississippi state field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who in 1963 was gunned down in the driveway of his home in Jackson. She waged a painstaking battle to keep her husband's memory and dreams alive and valiantly lobbied to bring his killer to justice. Her diligence eventually paid off when the assassin was brought to trial for a third time and finally, in 1994, was found guilty of the murder of Medgar Evers, more than 30 years after the crime.

Myrlie Evers
Myrlie Evers speaks during the 2013 Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Lecture

The widow could have let anger take over after the events of that night in 1963, but her strength and faith didn't let her live a small life. Evers says she recognized that hatred is dangerous and destructive. The family moved from  Mississippi to California to get away from the reminders of Medgar's death, including a bullet hole in the refrigerator, and Evers knew revenge had to come in forms other than of rage. With a smile, Evers spoke about the poetic justice of learning that her husband's killer, Byron De La Beckwith, had a jail cell window facing a post office with Medgar Evers' name on it.

"If you must get back at people, do it by love and success. Reach out to others and help them understand that hatred is a killer," she said.

Myrlie Evers continues to work closely with the Medgar Evers Institute, its name having been changed by the board of directors in 2012 to the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute to recognize Myrlie Evers' own work in social justice and equal rights. She will spearhead the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Assassination of Medgar Evers in June 2013.

In January 2012, she assumed the position of distinguished scholar-in-residence at Alcorn State University in Lorman, the college where she and Medgar Evers met.

She was selected by President Barack Obama to offer the invocation at his second presidential inauguration on Jan. 21, 2013, the first woman and first lay person to be so honored.

In addition to Myrlie Evers, the series honored four other Nussbaum Laureates for their contributions to the civil rights movement in Mississippi and beyond. They are:

  • Dr. Jack Geiger, who has dedicated most of his career to the problems of health, poverty, and human rights. From 1965 until 1971, he was director of the first urban and first rural health centers in the U.S. in Boston and in the Mississippi Delta in Mound Bayou.
  • Dr. Alton B. Cobb, who served as Mississippi's chief health officer from 1973 to 1993. During his tenure, he and his staff at the Mississippi State Department of Health enacted the nation's most efficient way of getting baby formula into the hands of mothers who couldn't afford it. Also, during that time the state had the highest immunization rates and the lowest tuberculosis rates.
  • The late Joshua Morse III, dean of the University of Mississippi School of Law in the 1960s. He admitted the school's first black students, a move that led to the desegregation of Mississippi's legal profession and judiciary.
  • The late Robert Quarles Marston, a leading medical educator and researcher, who became dean of the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in 1961. During his administration, the first black medical students were admitted and the first black professors were hired, which provided precedents for the peaceful racial desegregation of southern medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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2011 Lecture

Freedom Rider Hank Thomas to speak at Nussbaum Lecture Series

Hank ThomasCome hear Civil Rights activist and original Freedom Rider Hank Thomas speak about the Rabbi Perry Nussbaum and the Freedom Riders at 12:30 p.m. on March 25 in room 215 of the Ford Academic Complex at Millsaps College. The lecture is free.

Thomas will be the featured speaker for the Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Lecture Series, an annual event at Millsaps. Dr. John D. Bower, renal pioneer and friend of the late Nussbaum, endowed in 2008 the lecture series, which is dedicated to men and women who have stood against racial bigotry and religious prejudice.

Thomas is president of Victoria Hospitality Properties, which owns and operates Marriott Hotel franchises, and vice president of Hayon and Hayon II, which own and operate McDonald's franchises. Thomas is also a veteran Civil Rights foot soldier with 22 arrests and a Vietnam War Purple Heart recipient.

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2010 Lecture

Clarion-Ledger Reporter Jerry Mitchell to Speak at Nussbaum Lecture

Clarion-Ledger reporter Jerry MitchellClarion-Ledger investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell is scheduled to speak about "Stories of Justice and Reconciliation in Mississippi" at 12:30 p.m. on March 26 in room 215 of the Ford Academic Complex at Millsaps College. The lecture is free.

Mitchell will be the featured speaker for the Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Lecture Series, an annual event at Millsaps. Dr. John D. Bower, renal pioneer and a friend of the late Rabbi Perry Nussbaum, endowed in 2008 the lecture series, which is dedicated to men and women who have stood against racial bigotry and religious prejudice.

Heralded as a "dogged and courageous" journalist, Mitchell's work has helped bring unpunished killers from the civil rights era to justice, including Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 assassination of NAACP leader Medgar Evers; Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers for ordering the fatal firebombing of NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer in 1966; Bobby Cherry for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four girls; and Edgar Ray Killen for helping organize the June 21, 1964, killings of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

Mitchell has received more than 30 national awards for his work, including being named a MacArthur Fellow. The MacArthur Foundation awards $500,000 fellowships to individuals who have used their gifts to improve the world.

Millsaps Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College David Davis said Mitchell's work as a reporter makes him a good fit as a speaker for the lecture series. "The lecture series committee felt that Jerry Mitchell would be a perfect speaker to address the politics of race in the 60s and its legacy in Mississippi of 2010 because of his courageous work over the years," he said.

For more information about the lecture, contact Millsaps College at 601.974.1005.

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