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Lecture Topics

I adapt each lecture to suit the time constraints and audience. These have generated positive feedback in general audiences and in college classes studying:

American History Survey Civil Rights History Public History Political Science Southern History Women’s History Women’s Studies Oral History Communications Social Work

Joan C. Browning
PO Box 1147
Lewisburg WV 24901-4147

Length of speeches: All speeches present well at lengths of 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and 45 minutes. Several combinations of two lectures work well, when added to comment and question and answer periods, to cover sessions up to 2 = hours.

Titles and Descriptions

Breaking Out of the Cage of Race - Using overhead transparencies, I describe the remote rural place of my childhood in southeast Georgia and my developing consciousness of race, fear of racial supremacists, and how I came to know that I, a white woman, lived in and then, joining the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, broke out of, a “cage of race.”

A Sinister Tyranny: Atlanta Took Time to Hate Race-Mixing White Women - Writer Lillian Smith, a white liberal voice in the Jim Crow South, said that in its “city too busy to hate” days there was “... a quiet and sinister police tyranny abroad in Atlanta; when whites and Negroes are seen together on the street, coming out of a private home, the whites are at once arrested for ‘disturbing the peace.”’ Using incidences and examples from the 1 940s through the 1 960s, I show the details of how this elected official-newspaper-police-Ku Klux Klan sinister tyranny operated to antiracist white women back "in their place."

The Power to Witness: Religions Motivation for ‘Putting My Body on the Line’ for Freedom - Was nonviolent civil disobedience a ‘tactic’ or a ‘way of life’? Using overhead transparencies of notes and letter written as an 18- and 19-year old white woman in Georgia, I show direct continuity from the spiritual teaching of my isolated, rural Methodist church and home to college Wesley Foundation, Rev. James Lawson’s nonviolent civil disobedience training, Dr. Martin Luther King’s lecture, and then using this spiritual instruction to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee as a sit-inner and Albany Freedom Rider.

A Hell of a Disturbance: White Woman Albany Freedom Rider - Using overhead transparencies including letters and notes written in jails in Albany, Georgia, while incarcerated as an Albany Freedom Rider, I show how I, as a 19-year old white woman, saw and experienced race and gender in 1961. The lecture title comes from a letter in which I wrote “I just heard that I caused a hell of a disturbance. It seems that never in their experiences has a white girl—especially such a quiet, soft-spoken, all-American type— been involved. Jim Forman, Chairman of SNCC, tells me the cops and local whites are amazed.” Jail notes show affection between black and white women.

Readings from "Shilob Witness," autobiographical chapter from Deep In Our Hearts: Nine White Women in the Freedom Movement (October 2000, University of Georgia Press) - Selections from an autobiographical essay in which I attempt to answer the questions: how and why did I, of all the white girls in my neighborhood growing up, find my way to the 1 960s freedom movement? What did I do there? What did I learn there that I have used these three decades since?

Invisible Revolutionaries: Who Were the Albany Freedom Riders? - Who were the Albany, Georgia, Freedom Riders? Building on my Journal of Women’s History Article, “Invisible Revolutionaries: White Women in Civil Rights Historiography” (Fall 1996), I show graphically how the written and oral interview memories and accounts of the Albany Freedom Ride illustrate the variable reliability of historical evidence. I use as evidence police records, movement press releases, freedom riders Tom Hayden, Jim Forman and Bob Zellner, SNCC field secretaries Charles Jones and Charles Sherrod, writers Howard Zinn and Pat Watters, and Historians Clay Carson, David Garrow, and Taylor Branch, as well as my own memories.

What Really Happened? Oral History in Autobiographical Research - When writing “Shiloh Witness,” my chapter in Deep in Our Hearts: Nine White Women in the Freedom Movement, I used oral history guidance to interview associates, friends, and family members. In this lecture, I give numerous examples of how memory, well tested, enriches autobiography, and how other memories served as a test of my own.

How Julian Kept Me Alive: SNCC’s Media Relations and Direct Action Campaigns - Using overhead transparencies of press releases and newspaper articles, I show how Julian Bond used the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s public relations operation to shine the light of national and international attention on direct action campaigns. I believe with all my heart this attention saved my life, and the lives of many others, during the deadly violent days of the early I 960s.

‘The Political Stump is My Pulpit’: Rev. Joseph Rabun’s 1948 Georgia Gubernatorial Campaign - When did the freedom movement begin, and when did rural white southerners join? Using material from a biography-in-progress, I show that the World War II soldiers returned home determined to create at home the democracy for which they had paid such a dear abroad. The Rev. Joseph A. Rabun returned to preach in McRae (GA) Baptist Church, to a congregation dominated by the racist political dynasty of Gene and Herman Talmadge. Fired in a rigged congregational election, Rabun then ran for governor against Herman.

Who Runs Georgia? Election Fraud in Telfair County, 1946, 1948, 1960 & 1962 - Racist former Georgia governor Eugene Talmadge was terminally ill when he ran for re-election in 1946. To insure the dynastic succession, widespread election fraud gave his son Herman the write-in votes to take the governor’s office by force. I use overhead transparencies of contemporaneous newspaper reports and photographs, and excerpts from interviews and political histories, to show the mechanics and results of widespread voter fraud. In 1960, I report on my first-ever vote — within the watchful eyes of FBI observers — and my mother’s involvement in reform Democratic party politics during my childhood.

Tailored lectures: I add several topics each year, and prepare material for special purposes on request.

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