UAB History Student Helps Bring Civil Rights Activist to Campus

Laura King, a junior history major and African American studies and sociology minor, first contacted James Meredith and his wife, whom she met at a book signing, about visiting UAB.
On. Feb. 12, James Meredith, the African-American activist who integrated the University of Mississippi, participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by the UAB African American Studies program, the Department of History and Phi Alpha Theta honors society.

Laura King and James MeredithThe panel for “An Evening with James Meredith,” held at the Hill Student Center Ballroom, included Dr. Kathryn Morgan, director of the African-American Studies program, Dr. Pamela King, assistant professor in the Department of History, and Dr. Robert Corley, retired professor of History.

Laura King, a junior history major and African American studies and sociology minor, first contacted Meredith and his wife, whom she met at a book signing, about visiting UAB.

“I went to see him and ended up making really good friends with his wife,” Laura said. “I ended up following him for 45 minutes to their next stop, so I could interview him. His wife added me on Facebook, so I asked her if he would be interested in coming to UAB to speak.”

Laura’s interests include the Civil Rights Movement and post-Antebellum African-American history. In middle school, she decided she wanted to study history in college after years of being taught of the bravery of African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement.

“It was one of those things in elementary school, where they say ‘this is Martin Luther King Jr., he was the Civil Rights Movement guy, and you learn about him, Ruby Bridges, Harriet Tubman, and the major figureheads, and I’ve been interested in it ever since,” she said.

Meredith applied to the University of Mississippi in 1961 but was refused entrance once his race was discovered. After winning a discrimination lawsuit against the University, Meredith was barred from entering the University by officials, eventually leading to President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy to send in U.S. Marshals, the Mississippi National Guard, and other governmental officials to control the rioting that resulted.

Laura competed and won first place in a history competition in middle school, where she presented about James Meredith and his impact on the Civil Rights Movement.

Laura reflects that her interests in moments of the Civil Rights Movement are heavily driven by her geography within the South. She recalls driving from her hometown in Mississippi to Ohio as a child and asking her mother to stop at the Civil Rights Institute. In March, she began an internship there.

She attributes much of her success to the professors at UAB that have helped and acted as mentors along the way.

“Professor Pam King has really driven my focus,” she said. “She got me into this internship with her recommendation, and I feel like my interest wouldn’t be where they are without her. She’s so much like me, that I call her my mom away from home, especially since her last name is King too. I feel like I’ve gotten mentors here that I wouldn’t have anywhere else.”

For more information about the Department of History and the African American Studies program, visit the department’s website and the program’s website.
Anissa Latham-Brown is a 2015-16 UAB Digital Media fellow. She is majoring in African-American Studies and is in the process of creating an individually designed major dealing with Media and Racial Representation.