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Lander to Celebrate Life of Civil Rights Legend and Greenwood Native During Black History Month

February 02, 2015

Dr. Benjamin MaysFebruary is Black History Month, and Lander University is marking the occasion with a celebration of the life of Dr. Benjamin Mays, a Greenwood native and vital contributor to the civil rights movement. The program, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m. in the university’s Josephine B. Abney Cultural Center. It is made possible by Lander’s Fine Arts and Lectureship Series (FALS).

Loy Sartin, curator of the Benjamin Mays Historic Site in Greenwood, will lead the presentation.

The son of former slaves, Mays was born in Greenwood in 1894. He and his seven siblings worked on his family’s sharecropper farm. Having witnessed angry mobs and lynches, Mays’ childhood was touched by acts of racial violence and forced segregation during one of the more turbulent periods of history in the American South. Mays realized that he wanted something better for his life and developed an insatiable desire to get an education. Angering his father by leaving the farm, Mays headed north to attend Bates College in Maine and later earned a doctorate from the University of Chicago.

Destined for a life of significance, Mays would go on to serve as president of Morehouse College in Atlanta for 28 years and as an adviser for U.S. presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Carter. A speaker on civil rights and equality, Mays became a close friend and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He delivered King’s final eulogy following the civil rights leader’s assassination in April 1968.