Civil Rights Activist Encourages Juniors to Use Their Voices

Civil Rights Activist Encourages Juniors to Use Their Voices photo
Juniors at Rye Neck High School – who are studying the civil rights movement in their history classes – recently welcomed civil rights activist Nell Braxton Gibson as a guest speaker. 

Gibson, who grew up in the South and was the elder of two daughters of professional educators, talked about her experiences during the civil rights movement and what inspired her to become committed to social justice. As a teenager, she lived less than 60 miles away from where Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American, was lynched to death in Mississippi in 1955. Three months after Till’s death and one month after the murder of Gibson’s friend, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. These events had a profound effect on Gibson and deepened her commitment to get involved. While attending Spelman College, Gibson joined growing civil rights efforts as she and fellow students began walking picket lines, participating in mass demonstrations and registering first-time voters. Throughout her adult life, she continued her social justice work for equality.

“She encouraged our students to use their voices and reminded them anything worth fighting for takes time and commitment,” teacher Mary Lanza said. “The students had an opportunity to ask her questions about her experiences and her opinions on today’s issues.”

During her discussion with the students, Gibson also made parallels between teenagers’ involvement in that movement and their involvement in today’s issues. Prior to Gibson’s visit, the students read excerpts from her book, “Too Proud to Bend: A Journey of a Civil Rights Foot Soldier,” a memoir she released in 2015. 

Gibson’s visit to the high school was generously sponsored by the Rye Neck PTSA High School/Middle School STEAM Committee, chaired by Susan Banker.