September 7, 2001
Calvin Civil Rights Project Complete
Calvin College senior Peter Bratt has completed a summer-long project that he hopes will bring the power of the Civil Rights movement to a broader audience. He has 20 unpublished speeches from the Civil Rights movement up on a website called: "The Voices of Freedom: An Archive of the American Civil Rights Oratory."
The speeches are from a wide variety of civil rights heroes. Martin Luther KIng Jr. and Malcolm X are included. So are Thurgood Marshall, John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer and Anna Julia Cooper.
The site is at www.voices-freedom.org and is the culmination of a project that began at the end of May and involved hundreds of hours of research.
Bratt's project was one of 10 student projects this summer at Calvin on a variety of subjects. All were part of Calvin's McGregor Fellowship program which sees students earn a $3,100 stipend for a summer-long research project with a Calvin professor.
Bratt partnered with Calvin professor Garth Pauley, a communication professor and expert on Civil Rights rhetoric.
His experiences were broad and beneficial.
"I have done a great number of things for the past three months," the Grand Rapids native says, "and I have learned a lot. One of the most important is that I have developed stronger research skills, which have enabled me to track down information in a speedier manner. I have done everything from calling up libraries and archives around the country to typing up speeches at 2 in the morning!"
Learning more about the Civil Rights movement also was a plus for Bratt, a graduate of Grand Rapids Christian High School.
"I learned a great deal about the Civil Rights movement," he says, "and have a much greater appreciation for its leaders in the African American community, past and present. Reading some of the speeches was quite hard. Some deal with tough topics, lynchings for example. But it was good to realize that our nation's history, indeed human history, is not one just of progress, but also sinfulness and human error that resulted in much tragedy."
Bratt hopes others will learn from the archive too.
"I feel that this project is very important for not only me, but also the community. People today need to look at what was said in the past. This archive, while a small effort, will give people a chance to learn more about the Civil Rights movement and the obstacles it faced and still faces. I hope that in the future more speeches can be included, and that Calvin will continue to play a role in increased awareness of the civil rights movement, both past and present."