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Leading Sociologist Dr. Charles Willie Addresses Lasell Community for Black History Month

February 27, 2013

Dr. Charles Willie, a leading sociologist with a long, distinguished career in desegregation and race relations, spoke to Lasell students, faculty and the community recently about the lasting effects of the Montgomery, Ala. bus boycott of 1955.

Willie, the Charles William Eliot Professor of Education, Emeritus at Harvard University, recounted the chronology leading up to and following Rosa Parks' historic choice to refuse to give her seat to a white man - sparking the non-violent protest boycott of that city's bus system led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Willie, who has served as a consultant, expert witness, and court-appointed master in major school desegregation cases in various large cities including the landmark case of Boston (1974), spoke to the large gathering of students about the important lessons of non- violent protest.

"You have to have multiple approaches if you want to win [these confrontations]. Your job is to find out what you need and also help the needs of others," Willie told the students.

"This may be a decision you have to make [someday]," he added.

Willie said that the non-violent nature of the bus boycott, despite the bombings of the homes of city civil rights leaders including that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., helped to bring the issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

He also shared that throughout his personal life he did his best to be-friend all people, regardless of their opinions on racial equality.
Several from the audience asked questions of Willie following the presentation including the lessons he took from his grandfather's experience as a slave, to whether the adult black community in Montgomery in 1955 supported protests by young people that were similar to Rosa Parks'.

The presentation was co-sponsored by the Departments of Communication, Social Science, Education, Justice and Legal Studies and the Donahue Institute for Values and Public Life.

 

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