Associate Professor of History and Political Science and Director of the Institute for Civic Leadership and Mayoral Archives Ted Frantz hosted “Civil Rights Legacies of 1965” on Feb. 18 in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. Frantz said that the lecture was part of the history department’s ongoing symposium, “Why Does History Matter?”
The event was co-sponsored by the Black Student Association. Frantz was introduced by junior social work major and club member Alexis Fort.
Frantz began the lecture with a brief introduction, discussing the film “Selma” and the recent unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City. He then played the trailer for the film. He discussed some of the film’s historical inaccuracies.
“It wasn’t his [Martin Luther King Jr.’s] call to be in Selma,” Frantz said. “Selma wasn’t about Dr. King, nor was the civil rights movement about Dr. King … but about the people of Selma. It was about connecting the local to the national. It was about justice. It was about fulfilling promises laid out in our Declaration of Independence when Thomas Jefferson memorably declared, ‘It’s self-evident that all men are created equal.’”
Frantz talked about the portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Frantz said he is portrayed in the film as being inactive in the cause of civil rights.
In reality, Johnson fought to ensure that Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In closing, Frantz discussed the civil rights movement’s loss of momentum and its legacy.
“I have this part of my talk titled after a film, more recently, a documentary [called] ‘Waiting for Superman,’” Frantz said. “The Voting Rights Act was a massive landmark that finally fulfilled what the 18th Amendment was supposed to do—making sure that people could cast a ballot. That is the essence of what it means to exercise democracy in this country … but after that, people couldn’t decide what was next. There had been unity of purpose within the movement … they knew they had to have that piece of legislation. After it was passed, it made people feel complacent.”
Frantz explained the significance of the “Waiting for Superman” reference, saying that the next generation should not wait for a single leader to inspire them to change the world.
“I truly enjoyed the talk that Dr. Frantz gave on the civil rights era,” said sophomore political science major Hallie Bates. “He touched on many issues.… I learned that there were many people involved in every aspect of the movement. There were a lot of ideas associated with Dr. King that actually came from people around him.”
Frantz said that at the beginning of the year, he knew he wanted to discuss the 50th anniversary of the March on Selma and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“It more stems from the course on the civil rights movement, which I’m teaching right now, and there is a lot of overlap with the Mayoral [Archives],” he said.
Freshman political science major Alexander Mimms enjoyed the lecture.
“I thought it was really great, really inspirational. It gives you good insight into what happened,” he said. “I think there’s a good underlying tone about trying to push kids to try and change the world.”