|June 26, 2014 -
In the early 1960s, the Rabbi Israel Dresner was known as America's "most arrested rabbi" for his civil rights activism across the South, often arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dorie Ladner, meanwhile, was a Mississippi college student active with the Freedom Riders, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Freedom Summer of 1964.
Next week, both Dresner and Ladner will be in Knoxville for events on Wednesday, July 2, to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They will participate in a commemorative march, which will begin at 6 p.m. at the City of Knoxville Safety Building, 800 Howard Baker Jr. Ave., and proceed to Mt. Olive Baptist Church, 1601 Dandridge Ave. Also joining them will be local civil rights leaders who participated in the Freedom Summer.
Then, at 7 p.m., Dresner and Ladner will speak at a celebration at Mt. Olive Baptist. The day marks the exact anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964, by President Lyndon Johnson.
The march and celebration are part of "Unfinished Business: Then, Now and Going Forward," a series of events organized this year by the City of Knoxville to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
"Rabbi Dresner and Ms. Ladner have dedicated their lives to justice and equal rights for all," said Joshalyn Hundley, Title VI Coordinator for the City of Knoxville. "We are honored to have such distinguished guests to inspire us as we celebrate this important anniversary."
Dresner was one of the three rabbis who were closest to King. King spoke on two occasions (1963 and 1966) to Rabbi Dresner's synagogue in Springfield, N.J. Dresner was the first Rabbi arrested in the freedom struggle in 1961 in an interfaith clergy freedom ride. President Obama honored Dresner at the White House the evening before the 50-year anniversary celebration of the March on Washington.
NOTE: There will also be a public reception for Dresner at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 1, at Temple Beth El, 3037 Kingston Pike.
Ladner, a native of Hattiesburg, Miss., enrolled at Tougaloo College in 1961 where she became engaged with the Freedom Riders. During the early 1960s, she dropped out of school three times to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1962, she was arrested for attempting to integrate the Woolworth's lunch counter. She joined with SNCC Project Director Robert Moses and others from SNCC and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to register disenfranchised black voters and integrate public accommodations. Then, in 1964, Ladner became a key organizer in the Freedom Summer Project. She participated in every civil rights march from 1963 to 1968, including the March on Washington in 1963, the Selma to Montgomery March of 1965 and the Poor People's March in 1968.
For more information about the City's Civil Rights Act commemoration, see www.cityofknoxville.org/civilrightsact.