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“They Led the Way” Civil Rights Exhibition Opens on Jan. 27

Posted Jan. 27, 2014

Exhibition opening is part of Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Kent State

The opening reception for "They Led the Way," an exhibition that tells the stories of the eight students who desegregated Leon County, Fla., public schools 50 years ago, will take place on Monday, Jan. 27, at 4:30 p.m. at the FirstEnergy Auditorium, Room 340 Franklin Hall. The reception and exhibition are open to all students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of Kent State University.

"They Led the Way" chronicles the lives of these students who endured taunting, anger and racism and went on to become lawyers, teachers, a doctor and a businessman. The exhibition is the work of Kent State School of Journalism and Mass Communication Professor Ann Schierhorn and features photographs by David LaBelle, photojournalism program director. The event is sponsored by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in partnership with the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Mahlon C. Rhaney Jr., one of the eight students, will be the featured speaker at the exhibition opening. Rhaney went on to earn his bachelor's degree at the United States Air Force Academy, where he was one of about 16 blacks in a class of more than 1,000. Later, he received a law degree from Harvard University. Today, he is the senior vice president of Benton-Georgia LLC, an Atlanta-based company that builds natural gas pipelines. Schierhorn, LaBelle and Thor Wasbotten, director of Kent State's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, also will speak at the opening.

"When I was growing up in the segregated south, I knew there were stories that were not being told. That's what drove me back to my hometown to tell the stories of the eight students who desegregated the schools," says Schierhorn.

"Meeting and photographing these courageous and accomplished individuals was a chance for me to touch history in the flesh; a history I had seen from a distance on television and on newspaper and magazine pages," says LaBelle.

For more information about this event, contact Stephanie Smith at ssmit149@kent.edu.