As America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the UCF Women's Studies program commemorated the special time as well.
A crowd of about 30 individuals gathered in the Cape Florida Ballroom last Thursday, Sept. 18, and Harriet Elam-Thomas, UCF Diplomacy Program director, opened the event.
For the first time speaking together, Peggy Wallace Kennedy and Cheryl Brown Henderson lent their insight and personal advice to UCF students, faculty and staff. At first, the names may not ring a bell, but these women are walking history.
Brown is the daughter of Oliver Brown, one of the 12 parents from Topeka, Kansas, who brought forth the segregation of the school system and deemed it unconstitutional, which resulted in the Brown v. Board of Education case.
Wallace is the daughter of former Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama who served in office during the Civil Rights Movement. The late governor advocated for segregation of blacks and whites while his daughter watched from the gates of her home as history developed in front of her eyes.
The events of the Civil Rights Movement that took place through their childhood had such a permanent effect on their being for the rest of their lives, shaping their paths and leading them to the very stage they stood on at UCF. As both women told their story, they had distinct messages for the next generations.
"I hear all the time that it's one of the most significant judicial turning points in the history of this nation," Brown said in reference to the Brown v. Board of Education case.
She spoke about how her father was an ordinary man who, like any father, wanted the best for his children and those who surrounded his family.
Brown ended saying that UCF's generation has a responsibility as a whole to speak out and take matters into its own hands, during a time of political disinterest. She also emphasized how in fact America's youth has power in its voices.
Following Brown, Wallace took the stage.
"Lift up hope for our children so that when their time comes they will be stronger because you lived," Wallace said.
Unlike Brown, Wallace watched the events of the Civil Rights Movement unfold as her father advocated for the segregation of whites and blacks as part of his campaign. At age 13, she was conscious of what was going on and at 16 she had her mind made up that while her "family business" was in fact politics, the way her father steered his power was not right.
"My own voice is what pulled me up," Wallace said in closing. "Find your voice and you will have courage."