New lecture series explores defending a ‘free, civil society’ news emporiagazette.com gas after eating eggs

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Howard was a respected surgeon, important black community leader and a successful businessman. Howard’s leadership included organizing protests which were regularly attended by 5,000 – 10,000. He threw himself into the Emmett Till case and was devoted to trying to find the truth. Howard gave Till’s mother refuge during the trial, having her stay at his home and ensuring she was escorted by armed guards to and from the trial.

“In the 1950’s he was headline news all over the place,” Beito said. “Four years before the Montgomery bus boycott he has his own successful mass boycott in Mississippi. He ran civil rights rallies in the 1950’s and would attract 10,000 people or more.”

Howard was born into poverty, both of his parents working as tobacco twisters. His parents divorced during his childhood and his mother ultimately accepted a job working as a cook for a white doctor. The doctor took Howard under his wing and helped him get into private school and ultimately college.

During college, he faced segregation and racism as the only black student. He did enter an oratory competition and gave a rousing speech in support of prohibition. At the conclusion of his speech, he received a standing ovation and ultimately won the competition.

During medical school, Howard met and married Helen Boyd. She was from a wealthy black family and introduced Howard to the “black elite.” Howard easily fell into the mix and found his place in the family and elite community, though it was different from his own upbringing.

After completing medical school Howard began working as the chief surgeon at the Taborian Hospital in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. It was an entirely black community with all community leaders being black. Howard stayed very busy at the hospital, completing up to 12 surgeries a day and delivering a number of babies.

Following his time at the hospital, Howard embarked on an entrepreneurial spree. He rapidly created and built a number of businesses and community assets. These included a 1,600-acre cattle and cotton plantation, opening a restaurant with a beer garden and building an Olympic-size swimming pool for blacks.

He started an insurance company called The Magnolia. He hired Medgar Evers to sell insurance for him. Evers wanted to focus on civil rights and Howard encouraged him to go collect the insurance premiums of customers and talk to them about civil rights at the same time.

In 1951, Howard formed the Regional Council of Negro Leadership. By this time he wanted to focus solely on civil rights. They started a campaign called “Don’t buy gas where you can’t use the restroom.” They distributed thousands of bumper stickers with the slogan on it, initiating a boycott of service stations.

He was also very critical of the FBI and Edgar J. Hoover. He was known to say, “the FBI can figure out how a plane crashed by looking at the pieces but they can’t figure out who killed a black man.” His criticisms drew the attention of the FBI and Hoover spoke out publicly about Howard.

Scott Beaulier, Ph.D. is the next presenter in the series. Beaulier is dean of the College of Business at North Dakota State University. He will speak about “Africa’s Escape From Poverty,” at 6 p.m. March 29 in the Phi Kappa Phi Room of the Memorial Union.

Beulier will discuss the role institutions play in creating a vibrant environment for human flourishing. He will discuss how some nations, like Botswana, have been able to improve well being for their citizens while others still have an opportunity for improvement. He will help demystify Africa’s escape from poverty.