The event was a celebration of Black History Month and Women’s History Month.
Judith Huntington, president of The College of New Rochelle, presented Evers-Williams with an honorary degree, the 18th she’s received from leading colleges and universities.
“A renowned human rights champion who has spent a lifetime working toward equality for all people, Myrlie Evers-Williams personifies unwavering strength in the face of insurmountable challenge,” Huntington said.
Myrlie and Medgar Evers, who were married in 1951, became prominent members of the civil rights community, opening Mississippi’s first NAACP state office in 1954. After her husband’s assassination, Evers-Williams continued her civil rights activism and became involved in politics. She went on to become the first black woman to lead the Southern California Democratic Women’s Division and was convener of the National Women’s Political Caucus.
Evers-Williams is credited with restoring the NAACP to its original status as the country’s premier civil rights organization during her tenure as chairperson, from 1995-98.
“Having Myrlie Evers-Williams on campus has been a wonderful hands-on learning experience for students and faculty alike,” said Amy Bass, professor of history and honors program director at The College of New Rochelle. “The work she has done, the movement she represents, the legacy she carries forward – we are so lucky to have had an opportunity to engage in living history, and hopefully students will be inspired to carry her work and her message forward.”
Evers-Williams has remained a trailblazer. In 1998, she became NAACP chairperson-emeritus, stepping down to create the Medgar Evers Institute to champion civil rights with a focus on history, education and reconciliation. In 2013, President Barack Obama tabbed her as the first layperson and first woman to deliver the invocation at a presidential inauguration.
“With a college like The College of New Rochelle, you have an opportunity here on campus and in this community to take advantage of the best education possible,” said Evers-Williams.
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