farmerJames Farmer was the leader of the 1961 Freedom Rides that desegregated transportation in the South. His skilled oratory was shaped in part as a member of the legendary 1935 debate team portrayed in Denzel Washington’s 2007 feature film, The Great Debaters. Timothy O’Donnell (University of Mary Washington) is leading an effort to help historically black colleges and universities field high-quality debate teams on crucial public policy issues.  Also: As entrepreneurs in a largely segregated trade, African-American funeral directors were historically among the few black individuals who were economically independent.  Suzanne Smith (George Mason University) in her book, To Serve the Living, shows how their financial freedom gave them the ability to support the struggle for civil rights as well as bury the dead.

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