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CU, African American History Center to host event honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

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Historian and author Dr. Wali Rashash Kharif to give keynote address

Cumberland University and Lebanon’s Roy Bailey African American History Center will host an event honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Wednesday, Jan. 21 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. in Labry Hall on the CU campus.

The informative event will include a panel discussion featuring professors from the Cumberland University History Department, area residents who participated in the civil rights movement and Dr. Wali Rashash Kharif, a prolific author and professor of history at Tennessee Technological University.

Co-author of “Reminisces and Reflections: African Americans in the Kentucky-Tennessee Upper Cumberland Since the Civil War,” Kharif earned his Bachelor of Arts in Government and History, Master of Arts in History and Ph.D. in History from Florida State University. As keynote speaker for the upcoming event, he is slated to discuss the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr.’s significance as well as the historic election of President-Elect Barack Obama.

“Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s president has been hailed as the culmination of the civil rights movement. Dr. Kharif will be drawing upon his extensive scholarship to give attendees of the event the historical perspective in which to place Obama’s victory and the challenges that he will face as chief executive,” said CU Associate Professor of History Dr. Mark R. Cheathem.

Kharif’s address will be followed by a panel discussion. Panelists scheduled to participate include Cheathem, CU Assistant Professor of History Monty Pope and History Instructor Rick Bell. The panel will also include area residents Nina Palmer Gragg and Cathy and Freddie Paul White, who each experienced the civil rights movement first-hand.

“In addition to learning the scholarly perspective of the civil rights movement, it’s also important to hear the first-hand accounts of those who lived through the period in order to personalize the struggles that African Americans faced,” Cheathem noted.

 The day’s event will conclude with a brief reception and refreshments in the atrium of Cumberland’s Labry Hall.

About Dr. Wali Rashash Kharif

Kharif (born Everett Rains) was born in Madison, Fla. to the Rev. Ernest Frank and Julia Mae Harvey Rains. Kharif converted to Islam in 1977 and is a founding member and officer of the Upper Cumberland Islamic Society of Cookeville. He serves as faculty advisor to the Chi Lambda Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and Muslim Students Organization at Tennessee Technological University (TTU), where he has been employed since 1988.

After 10 years as an environmental specialist for the State of Florida, Kharif entered academia. From 1984 until 1986, he was an instructor of history and political science at South Georgia College in Douglas, Ga. In 1988, he accepted the position of assistant professor of history at TTU, being tenured (1992) and promoted through the ranks to associate (1993) and full professor (1999). He has served as a member of the TTU Vision Committee, College of Arts and Sciences World Cultures Committee, the University Access and Diversity Committee, Steering Committee for the TTU Self-Study, various college committees, departmental promotion committee and search committees. He teaches a full load of classes each semester, and his teaching areas include American History Surveys, the American South, Sports History and African-American History.

Kharif is co-author of “Reminisces and Reflections: African Americans in the Kentucky-Tennessee Upper Cumberland Since the Civil War” (London, Ky.: Janze Publications, 2005). He has published eight book chapters, eight scholarly articles, nine encyclopedia entries and 18 book reviews. His most recent book chapters are Darwin School and Black Public Education: Cookeville in the Decade of the Brown Decision, pp. 350-365, in Carroll Van West’s, (ed.), “Essays in Tennessee’s African American History: Trial and Triumph” (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2002); Slavery, Freedom and Citizenship, Chapter Six in Calvin Dickinson’s and Michael Birdwell’s, (eds.), “Rural Life in the Upper Cumberland” (University of Kentucky Press, 2004); and Desegregation of Public Schools in the Tennessee Upper Cumberland, in Calvin Dickinson’s and Larry Whitaker’s “Tennessee: State of the Nation,” Third Edition.

Kharif was the 1994 recipient of the Yvonne Ochillo Award, issued by the Southern Conference on African American Studies, Inc., for his article, “Establishing and Maintaining White Supremacy in Florida, 1876-1905,” The Griot, 12, No. 2 (Fall 1993): 21-34.

He is a past president of the Southern Conference on African American Studies, Inc. (2005-2006). He has been a member of the American Association of University Professors since 1988, and he has held local and state conference offices. Kharif currently serves as membership coordinator of the Southern Conference on African American Studies, Inc.

He is active with Toastmasters International; is president emeritus of the Board of Directors of Lazarus House Hospice; is a past board member of the United Way of Putnam County; and is secretary of the Upper Cumberland Islamic Society. He was appointed to the Cookeville Regional Medical Center Ethics Commission in February 2006. In 1994, he received the Heart of Hospice Award, issued annually by the Lazarus House Hospice and, in 2002, he was recipient of the Service Award for 12 years of service on the Lazarus House Board of Directors.


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