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Juniata Civil Rights Pioneer, Pulitzer-Prize Winning Poet to Speak at Juniata

(Posted September 10, 2007)

Galway Kinnell, a prize-winning poet, taught for a semester at Juniata in 1965. He also helped lead a group of students to march in support of civil rights in Alabama.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Galway Kinnell, a Pulitzer-Prize winning poet and a former visiting artist at Juniata College (in 1965), returns to the college to give a reading of his poetry and participate in a question-and-answer session at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 20, at Alumni Hall in the Brumbaugh Academic Center on the Juniata campus. Kinnell will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree prior to his lecture. The lecture is free and open to the public. Kinnell spent a semester at Juniata College in spring 1965 as a visiting artist and became involved in the college\'s response to the national civil rights movement. Galvanized by images of civil rights marchers being beaten March 7, 1965 in Selma, Ala. on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Kinnell, Juniata faculty members and four students led a group of students to travel south to focus attention on civil rights marchers. By March 12, 1965 the trip to Selma involved 15 students, three faculty and several local ministers. On March 15, the Juniata contingent joined a protest at Alabama State and was blocked by campus police. Stymied, the group later started a march to the state capitol to present then-Gov. George Wallace with civil rights petitions. They were stopped almost immediately and held a sit-down protest. By March 16, another march to the state capitol began, with more than 1,000 participants, including the Juniata contingent. Policemen from the Montgomery Police Department, many on horseback, charged the crowd flailing with clubs, cattle prods and whips. Three Juniata activists were injured: Kinnell, the late Don Hope, a professor of English and Gerald Witt, minister with the local Evangelical Brethren Church. A newspaper photographer, Charles Moore, captured the attack on film and photos of a bloodied Kinnell being comforted by then-student Harriet Richardson (Harriet Michel, a 1965 graduate, is now a Juniata trustee.) were published in Life magazine. Kinnell\'s work has always focused on social issues and he worked for the Congress of Racial Equality in the 1960s, before his stint at Juniata. While a member of CORE, he worked on voter registration and workplace integration in Hammond, La. He documented his experiences as a civil rights worker and as a protester against the Vietnam War in the book-length poem \"The Book of Nightmares.\" Kinnell received his bachelor\'s degree from Princeton University and his master\'s degree from the University of Rochester. He taught at the University of Chicago in the early 1950s and has served as director of the creative writing programs at SUNY Binghamton and New York University. He was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at NYU and Chancellor of the American Academy of Poets. Kinnell received the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his 1983 collection \"Selected Poems.�¢?? His many books include \"What a Kingdom It Was,\" \"When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone,\" \"Imperfect Thirst\" and \"Strong is Your Hold.\" He is retired, and currently lives in Vermont.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.