Benedictine University celebrates 50th anniversary of Civil Rights Act

September 26, 2014

Photo - Willis Johnson - 9-12-14Lisle, Illinois ~ Rev. F. Willis Johnson, D.Min, pastor of Wellspring Church and one of the key community members involved in organizing nonviolent protests in Ferguson, Mo., following the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, will visit Benedictine University on Thursday, October 9 for a program commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

Johnson will present “The Injustice of Just Us: Ferguson’s Struggle to Restore Hope in Humanity,” at 7:00 p.m. on the second floor of the Krasa Student Center on the University’s Lisle campus as part of “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Past, Present and Future.”

Photo - John Marks - 9-12-14The program is free and open to the public and will also feature a panel discussion at 3:00 p.m. in the Krasa Presentation Room including Johnson and two civil rights activists – John Marks, one of the first black students to integrate Florida State University in 1965 and who is now mayor of Tallahassee, Fla., and Fannie Rushing, Ph.D., founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Chicago and current professor of History at Benedictine. Both Marks and Rushing will share their experiences in the struggle to end racial inequality in the 1960s.

In addition to the panel discussion and 7:00 p.m. presentation, a luncheon will also be held at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 9 in the Krasa Dining Room, followed by an opening keynote speech from Marks.  

“We are honored to bring this important event to our campus, as we reflect not only on the significance of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in the year of its 50th anniversary, but also as we examine the issues and problems that we continue to struggle with as a society,” said Phil Hardy, Ph.D., assistant professor of Political Science and director of the University’s Center for Civic Leadership.

Johnson will address the events in Ferguson, which erupted into weeks of daily protests, occasional riots and a highly critical police response after Brown, an unarmed African-American teen was shot multiple times and killed by a white police officer.

In the days immediately following Brown’s death, Johnson offered counseling through the Wellspring Church and sought to keep young people from getting hurt as confrontations among protestors and police intensified.

“Pastor Johnson has been a leading voice in the community creating paths of dialogue with the police and FBI,” said Vince Gaddis, Ph.D., professor of History at Benedictine. “He is an excellent person to come and share his insight to help us better understand some of the underlying issues into what happened in Ferguson.”

The event is co-sponsored by the Center for Civic Leadership (CCL), the History and Global Studies Programs, the College of Liberal Arts and the Center for Mission and Identity at Benedictine.

Seating for the luncheon is limited. Please RSVP by contacting Lynn Dransoff at (630) 829-6250 or


Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 15 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2002-2012 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit doctoral institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the fourth consecutive year in 2014. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the sixth largest in the Chicago area in 2014.

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