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APSU to host brown bag luncheon, talk by famed civil rights leader

Maxine Smith knew Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She was with Medgar Evers the night before he was gunned down. She hid James Meredith in her Memphis home the night before he broke the color barrier by enrolling at the University of Mississippi.

In a big finale for Austin Peay State University's celebration of Black History Month, Smith will be the guest at a brown bag luncheon/discussion at noon, Wednesday, Feb. 28 in the African American Cultural Center.

The event, billed as “An Afternoon with a Living Legend,” will be an informal interview with Smith by Dr. Sherry Hoppe, APSU president.

Hoppe and Dr. Bruce Speck, provost and vice president for academic affairs, researched and wrote the authorized biography of Smith, “Maxine's Unwilling Pupils: Lessons Learned in Memphis' Civil Rights Classroom,” now being published by the University of Tennessee Press.

Painting a picture of this highly educated and extremely vocal woman and how her powerful personality expedited the civil rights movement in and around Memphis, the book is slated for release in late March or early April, so the Feb. 28 event at APSU offers a preview.

Although Smith spoke out against unfair treatment of blacks in all areas of society, her primary interest was education. Following her leadership in the integration of Memphis' schools, Smith was elected to the Memphis School Board, where she served 24 years. Later, she gave 12 years of service to Tennessee higher education through her appointment to the Tennessee Board of Regents.

For more information, telephone Carol Bennett, director of the African American Cultural Center, at (931) 221-7120. -- Dennie B. Burke