Civil rights activist Judy Richardson to speak at MLK Celebration on Jan. 17

Filmmaker and civil rights activist Judy Richardson will be the keynote speaker at the University of Chicago’s 2013 Martin Luther King Commemoration Celebration.

The Jan. 17 event will feature Richardson in conversation with Charles Payne, the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Social Service Administration. The two will look back at Richardson’s involvement with civil rights in the 1960s and her efforts to commemorate the civil rights movement and its legacy.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. in Rockefeller Chapel, the site of one of King’s first major speeches in Chicago in 1956. The celebration is free and open to the public, and seating will be assigned on a first come, first served basis.  

Recipients of the University’s 2013 Diversity Leadership Awards also will be honored on Jan. 17 at the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. President’s Reception, prior to the celebration in Rockefeller Chapel. This year's recipients are alumnus Michael Bennett, PhD'88, and Kim Ransom, Director of the Collegiate Scholars Program at the University of Chicago.

Richardson was an early member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an organization that played a central role in the civil rights movement during the 1960s and supported the Freedom Rides and March on Washington in 1963.

Richardson worked with SNCC during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer effort to register African American voters. She also worked on civil rights leader Julian Bond’s successful campaign for the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965.

She began her career in filmmaking as associate producer of Eyes on the Prize, a 14-hour documentary series on the history of the civil rights movement. Eyes on the Prize was broadcast on PBS in 1987 and 1990, and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1988.

After her work on Eyes on the Prize, Richardson went on to co-produce the Emmy- and Peabody-winning documentary Malcom X: Make It Plain in 1994. Her most recent documentary, Scarred Justice, aired in 2010 on PBS. The film explores the death of three young black protestors who were shot by policeman near the campus of South Carolina State University in 1968. She co-edited Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC, published by the University of Illinois Press in 2011.

As part of the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, portions of Eyes on the Prize will be shown on Jan. 10, 11, and 18, with discussions to follow the screenings. Students also will have the opportunity to watch the film in their residence halls.

Other activities in honor of Martin Luther King Day include a day of service on Jan. 19 and a Jan. 9 “Take a Stand” event in the Reynold’s Club, during which students will be encouraged to discuss the issues that inspire them. Members of the campus community also can submit photos to be displayed at the Jan. 17 celebration by posting images of their inspiration on Instagram with the hashtag #UChicagoMLK.

For more information on the events taking place throughout the month, please visit the MLK Celebration website.