Dr. Beito to Speak at Unveiling of Civil Rights Marker in Mississippi
If you are mediocre and you would prefer to remain that way, stay away from Dr. Linda Beito. Simply being in her presence may inspire you to be a more productive human being. And, if you happen to glance at her agenda, you might, at very least, begin to reevaluate your time management skills.
On October 4th, Dr. Beito will travel to Mound Bayou, MS. to speak at the unveiling of a Civil Rights Marker for Dr. T.R.M. Howard, who was the subject of a book she co-authored. Although she has moved on to several new research projects since writing Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard’s Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power (University of Illinois Press, 2009), Dr. Beito remains committed to making the public more aware of Dr. Howard’s contributions to civil rights. She helped successfully petition the State of Mississippi to have a section of highway named after him, and believes the Civil Rights Marker will further document his contributions.
She is also conducting interviews and exhaustive research for a book on Howard’s and Linton’s Barber Shop which promises to reveal a whole new perspective on the battle for civil rights in Tuscaloosa, AL. In addition, she is awaiting publication of The Richer Gift of Individualism: The Political Writings of Zora Neale Hurston (University of Illinois Press, 2013), which she co-authored with her husband, Dr. David Beito. She also teaches and serves as Chair of the Department of Social Sciences and Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at Stillman College.
If the subjects of her books were not so compelling, Dr. Beito might be inclined to put down her pen and rest more often. However, although our society has come a long way, she believes that the history of unsung pioneers who paved the path to justice, equality and opportunity deserves to be documented. “We take so much for granted today, but I think it is important that their stories be heard. They are fighting for their place. Fighting for due process. Fighting for human dignity,” states Dr. Beito. “Often people do not like to talk about the past. It’s simply too painful. I recently went to a Yale seminar on Slave Narratives. The horrors of what slaves saw, heard, and knew were too heart wrenching to sit and read. I had to step away, regain composure and continue.”
Dr. Beito understands the reluctance to talk about the past, but knows that this is all the more reason to document history before it is lost. Prior to the release of Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard’s Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power, Dr. Howard was virtually unknown outside of Mississippi. She hopes that her book about Howard’s and Linton’s Barber Shop will generate a similar increase in awareness of Civil Rights heroes in Tuscaloosa by documenting the experiences of Reverend Thomas Linton and other citizens who made invaluable contributions to the city’s history. Her 207-page anthology of Zora Neale Hurston writings also promises to preserve history as it includes commentaries, letters and several stories that have not been printed since 1928.
Although Hurston is now among the most acclaimed female writers of the Harlem Renaissance, in her day the enigmatic writer was often disparaged. She was criticized for writing fiction that was not sufficiently political, and for using a quaint Negro dialect. She was also criticized for criticizing government programs such as the New Deal. As an author, she struggled to survive.
“I think in the early 20th century it was most difficult for African American writers to gain attention. We had not entered the days of Civil Rights. People were not yet arguing about being educated about Black History. This all came after her time period. Was she a trailblazer? Absolutely. She was fearless,” states Dr. Beito. “One of the things I like about Zora Neale Hurston is that she lived her life the way she wanted to live it. To determine to be yourself regardless of the consequences is admirable. She died poor. Nobody acknowledged her work at the time of her death. But that is how great artists often live. She was non-apologetic. This is what I am like. Why apologize for who you are and for your life?”
“Her background in anthropology had to have made her different from other writers. Many other writers traveled, but she went to islands to investigate voodoo. That took a certain level of confidence to do during that time period,” Dr. Beito states. “Her father was instrumental in founding the town Eatonville, FL. She was the child of a strong leader. She had self-determination. She was secure in who she was.”
When Dr. Beito speaks about these dynamic heroes, she exudes energy—and energy tends to be contagious. So, final warning, if you don’t want to be inspired to be all that you can be, stay away from Dr. Beito.
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