Toland lecture examines Tuskegee’s race relations and history


TUSKEGEE, Ala. (February 27, 2014) – The first of three lectures for this year’s Tuskegee University Lyceum Series took a deeper look at the history of race relations in the City of Tuskegee. The first Frank J. Toland Lecture was held Wednesday afternoon in Kenney Hall auditorium. Mab Segrest, writer and professor at Connecticut College was the featured speaker for the three-part event. 


The last part of the lecture was a talk about Segrest’s current work on the social history of Georgia’s state mental hospital, Milledgeville. The first and second part of the event was the showing of the film, “Tuskegee, Alabama: Living in Black and White” and a question session with Segrest and the city’s mayor pro tem, Tony Haygood. The documentary film examined Tuskegee University’s background as well as the political landscape and race and class divides that shaped the city during the Reconstruction era and subsequent decades. Among the two most significant events detailed were the Charles v. Gomillion case and the integration of Tuskegee High School in 1963. 

Haygood was among the first groups of blacks to integrate the school. Although, he was close to some of his white classmates, he said the experience of being one of the few blacks at the school was frightening at times. 

“For the most part, it was a learning experience,” Haygood said. “Learning how to trust people. ”

Segrest is a native of Macon County and grew up on the other side of Tuskegee’s past racial divide. She said she has spent most of her life coming to terms with the connections her family had to unsavory figures who participated in racist and sometimes deadly acts. Her distant cousin was Marvin Segrest, the gas station owner who killed Samuel Younge, Jr., a Tuskegee student and voting rights activist, in 1966. According to accounts, he and Marvin Segret got into an altercation after Younge tried to use the station’s whites-only bathroom. Younge was shot and killed. An all-white jury found Marvin Segrest not guilty of murder. 

“I will always be proud to be from Macon County,” Mab Segrest said. “But, it gave me a whole lot of stuff to think about my whole life.”

Growing up, she said she had been plagued with questions about the social and racial disparities she witnessed. She said her turning point came when she left Alabama and started working as an organizer against Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi movements in North Carolina. Her work resulted in many arrests and some groups being shut down. 

“I found a sort of peace,” she said of the experience. 

The Toland Lecture series is named after Frank J. Toland, Jr., who was chair of the university’s Department of History for 40 years. He died in 2010. The next event in Tuskegee’s Lyceum Series is the 19th Annual Ralph Ellison Lecture on Monday, March 31 at 3 p.m. in the auditorium of the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center at Tuskegee University. 

Segrest gives lecture.

Audience at Toland Lecture.

Haygood speaks to audience.

Students listen.

© 2014 Tuskegee University

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