Black History Month is being celebrated at Williams Baptist University throughout February with field trips to African-American historical sites, a special lecture from local civil rights pioneer Ethel Tompkins and a library display showcasing the jazz artists of Arkansas.
“WBU seeks to create a diverse and quality student life experience that celebrates every student,” said Dean of Students Amber Grady. “Just as with other cultural awareness programming, this month’s activities will foster an awareness of our past while celebrating the significant contributions that influence today’s society.”
WBU students are encouraged to attend one of the three school-sponsored field trips throughout the month. Their first stop was on Tuesday, February 12, at the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum in Memphis. Next, students are heading back to Memphis on February 18 to tour the National Civil Rights Museum, a trip that is being sponsored by WBU’s Bancroft Society for history students. Finally, students will head to Little Rock on March 1 to visit two locations, Central High School and the Mosaic Templar Museum.
Ethel Tompkins will speak Tuesday, February 26. The event runs from 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the Moody Dining Room. Tompkins was one of the Hoxie 21 to integrate Hoxie Schools in 1955, and in 1961 she became the first African-American to graduate from Hoxie High School. In 2016 she received the Humanities Award from the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr., Commission.
The Moody Room is located WBU’s Mabee-Gwinup Cafeteria. All are welcome to attend Tompkins’ address, and there will be performances by Williams students.
An exhibit on Arkansas Pioneers of Jazz is being displayed in Felix Goodson Library throughout this month. Library patrons can learn about Arkansans who have influenced jazz music, and they can view the PBS documentary by Ken Burns on the origins and development of jazz as an art form.
Pictured above is Pierre Dowling, a WBU junior from Augusta, Ga., looking over the library’s jazz display.
Grady, a 2003 Williams alumna, added, “I’ve seen the opportunities for cultural awareness grow since my time as a student, and this celebration embraces what I’ve always loved about WBU: We are a family that’s strengthened by its unity of gifts and experiences. Seeing students participate in the various activities reminds me of what I appreciate most about Williams.”
In addition, Mabee-Gwinup Cafeteria, operated by Fresh Ideas Inc., is observing Cultural Awareness Month in February. Fresh Ideas has committed to serving dishes from around the globe, expanding both palettes and vocabulary.
“We are serving dishes from 197 different countries. We are covering all the countries of the world in 28 days,” said Melissa Moore, director of dining services. Moore said the meals that receive substantial positive feedback will become part of the regular menu at WBU.
Williams is a private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark.