University News

Balsamo to Present Lecture on Breach of Racial Etiquette

February 10, 2005

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MACOMB, IL – Larry Balsamo, Western Illinois University history professor, will present the lecture, "Death By Persons Well Known: Jim Crow Racial Etiquette and the Murder of Emmett Till," at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15 in the Macomb City Hall community room.

“The murder of Emmett Till, for what was a trivial breech of Southern racial etiquette, was part of the result of the increase of southern white fears in Mississippi over the potential changes in the racial and racist status quo stemming from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education,” Balsamo explained. “Till's murder and trial created a national sensation which influenced the emerging civil rights movement and which led, in part, to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957.”

The lecture, which is open free to the public, is part of a series of events sponsored by a $5,000 grant from the Illinois Humanities Council for the project “Brown vs. Board of Education.” The landmark decision which led to school desegregation is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

According to grant administrator Martin Dupuis, associate director of the Honors College and associate professor of political science, the grant supports three lectures on campus, as well as other events focusing on Brown vs. Board of Education. Shirley Portwood, history professor at Southern Illinois University, is scheduled to speak Thursday, March 24 on "Six Decades Before Brown: School Desegregation in Illinois" based on her recent publication “School Segregation in Southern Illinois: The Alton School Case, 1897-1908” appearing in the Illinois History Teacher, January 2005. In October 2004, John Bracey, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, spoke about the differences and disappointing similarities of life before and after the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

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