By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
As a native Atlantan, Vicki Crawford grew up in the cradle of the civil rights movement and saw up close many of the leaders of the struggle.
She now has the role of a lifetime as the co-director of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, the treasured assemblage of personal papers, sermons and letters of the movement’s center and Morehouse alumnus, Martin Luther King Jr. ‘48.
Crawford’s addition is part of new initiatives with the 10,000-piece Collection this year. Crawford will assist executive director Clayborne Carson in teaching a new course “Martin Luther King Jr. and the Modern Freedom Struggle.” Visiting scholar Jochen Fried, director of education at the Salzburg Global Seminar, is teaching a class focusing on global citizenship while Walter Fluker, executive director of the Leadership Center at Morehouse College, will teach a course on famed religious scholar and speaker, Howard Thurman ’23.
“We have a great ensemble this fall that will really launch a larger conversation around global leadership, our issues around human rights and justice,” said Fluker.
Crawford is an African American freedom struggle scholar who is an expert on gender and civil rights. She is a co-editor of the groundbreaking collection of essays, Women in the Civil Rights Movement; Trailblazers and Torchbearers (Indiana University Press, 1993). She has been an professor and administrator at Clark Atlanta University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
“The great opportunity is we have this wonderful collection and we use this treasure trove for teaching about Dr. King and the freedom movement,” she said. “How does that translate? It translates into lesson plans for high school teachers; it translates in terms of using documents from the Collection – in various courses across the curriculum – as primary source material for pulling students into so many different issues that are so relevant today.”
Helping with the new courses is part of the research and scholarship arm that Crawford believes is one of three important components of the Collection. Another is preservation, which the staff at the Robert Woodruff Library is overseeing.
The third area, programming on and off-campus, that excites Crawford.
“I see my job as making the Collection come alive,” she said. “We can do it through teaching. I see the Collection as a focal point for doing campus-based programming, community-based programming; community outreach.”
An example is the expansion of the Reading and Writing King: Student Essay Contest by adding a concurrent contest for Atlanta high school students. Crawford also plans to make appearances and speeches at schools around town to talk about King’s legacy and the Collection.
It all makes for an exciting place to be, Crawford said.
“This position for me is a continuation of a lifelong journey that I’ve been on, researching and teaching about the African American freedom struggle and teaching about human rights,” said Crawford, who as a junior in high school gave the introduction for former Morehouse president Benjamin E. Mays who was the Atlanta schools superintendent at the time. “I’m on another leg of a journey that I see as a lifelong journey.