|June 4, 2014 -
The City of Knoxville will continue its celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with two events on June 19, the date celebrated nationwide as Juneteenth in recognition of the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.
The Rev. C.T. Vivian, a veteran of the 1960s civil rights movement and a friend of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., will lead a "Mass Meeting" at 6:30 p.m. on June 19 at Payne Avenue Baptist Church, 2714 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Mass meetings at African-American churches were a core organizing tool of the civil rights movement, serving as rallies and planning sessions for marches and protests.
Vivian, who now lives in Atlanta, was a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was instrumental in desegregation efforts in Nashville and other cities across the South in the 1960s.
Last year, President Barack Obama awarded Vivian the Presidential Medal of Freedom. During the ceremony, Obama said, "The Rev. Vivian was among the first to be in the action: In 1947, joining a sit-in to integrate an Illinois restaurant; one of the first Freedom Riders; in Selma, on the courthouse steps to register blacks to vote, for which he was beaten, bloodied and jailed. Rosa Parks said of him, 'Even after things had supposedly been taken care of and we had our rights, he was still out there, inspiring the next generation,' including me, helping kids go to college with a program that would become Upward Bound.
The Mass Meeting at Payne Avenue Baptist Church is sponsored by Visit Knoxville, Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, Knoxville District Baptist Association, Knoxville Interdenominational Christian Ministerial Association and 100 Black Women of Greater Knoxville. In his talk, Vivian will reflect on the achievements of the civil rights movement and the Civil Rights Act, as well as the work that still needs to be done to build on those achievements.
From 2 to 4:30 p.m. on June 19, the Beck Cultural Exchange Center and the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound will present an "Amos 'n' Andy Seminar" at the Beck Center, 1927 Dandridge Ave. It will feature episodes from and discussion of the "Amos 'n' Andy" television show, which ran from 1951 to 1953 and was the first network program to have a largely African-American cast.
The "Amos 'n' Andy" show had a complicated racial history: It began as a long-running radio program, originating in the 1920s, and was written and voiced by white actors playing black characters. But in moving the program to television, the producers hired black actors in the title and many supporting roles, providing a mainstream breakthrough for African-American performers. The next sitcom with a majority black cast wouldn't come for two decades, with "Sanford and Son."
Bob Booker, Executive Director of the Beck Center, will talk about the history of "Amos 'n' Andy," how it was perceived at the time, and how its comedy compares with the comedy of the 21st century.