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UHV News

Renowned University of Houston scholar to deliver keynote lecture at UHV

A.D. Sheffield Symposium History Day Lecture
Linda Reed's presentation, titled, “Fannie Lou Hamer: A Twentieth-Century Cultural Icon,” will spotlight the life of a grass-roots activist who fought for voting and women’s rights and was a prominent leader in the civil rights movement.

Linda Reed, a University of Houston associate history professor, will take the stage to be the keynote speaker for a speaking event at the University of Houston-Victoria this February.

Presented by the A.D. Sheffield Symposium and the UHV History program, the event will feature Reed’s current research on the life of activist Fannie Lou Hamer. Her presentation, titled, “Fannie Lou Hamer: A Twentieth-Century Cultural Icon,” will spotlight the life of a grass-roots activist who fought for voting and women’s rights and was a prominent leader in the civil rights movement.

The event will be held at 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16, inside the UHV University Commons Multi-Purpose Room, 3006 N. Ben Wilson St. The symposium is held in February in observation of Black History Month.

Laura Mammina
Laura Mammina

“My colleagues and I like to do events on history that involve the university community to get people learning more about history and how it impacts where we are today,” said Laura Mammina, UHV assistant professor of history.

When people think of prominent civil rights icons, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X and the like would come to mind. Fannie Lou Hamer is one who isn’t recognized enough, Mammina said. Born to sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta in 1917, Fannie Lou Hamer worked with low-income, rural individuals in her community to educate them on growing their own food, referred to as freedom farms, before engaging with voting rights activism, Mammina said.

“The movement would not have been possible without the work of women,” Mammina said. “They weren’t just doing behind-the-scenes work; they were really involved.”

Similar to Fannie Lou Hamer, many women led the charge during the civil rights movement. But there were also those who preceded them, such as 19th century American abolitionists Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, who have all become steeped in history because of one common goal: fighting for equal rights in the United States.

Voting, for example, was a great effort that Fannie Lou Hamer was involved with in the 1960s, Reed said. Even though Hamer never received any formal training in higher education and barely made it through eighth grade, the activist had the drive and tenacity to push forward in her cause. Through the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, otherwise known as the SNCC, Hamer provided education and encouraged people to get registered to vote, and all this effort led to the congressional passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Reed said.

Linda Reed
Linda Reed

“In that one instance, you can see the difference between expressions for freedom that would be different between the 19th and 20th century,” Reed said. “The activity that Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth were involved in – they didn’t have the support of the constitution. They were really on their own, but nonetheless, they did have the support of a great number of Americans called the abolitionists.”

Reed, a distinguished scholar in African American history, completed her Ph.D. at Indiana University. Her acclaimed book, “Simple Decency and Common Sense: The Southern Conference Movement, 1938-1963,” sheds light on the pre-Civil Rights era. Reed has also co-edited an award-winning book on Black women’s history and was acknowledged with fellowships from the University of North Carolina and Princeton University.

She has also served as the director of the University of Houston’s African American Studies program for nine years and took leadership roles at the national level as the national director for the Association of Black Women Historians.

“Wherever Fannie Lou Hamer found herself, she was going to express her concern for what should happen for African Americans, including herself,” Reed said. “These expressions would open up opportunities for everyone to enjoy American democracy.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 50 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.