View A Video of this Breakfast
Our September speaker, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, is a true hero of the American civil rights movement of the 1960’s. At only 18 years of age, Joan left home in Arlington, Virginia to join the mostly college-aged “Freedom Riders” in their efforts to integrate the bus stations, lunch counters and schools of the deep south.
(Note - Whether or not you are able to attend the meeting, we encourage you to watch "An Ordinary Hero - The True Story of Joan Trumpauer Mulholland" on Amazon Prime or DVD.)
At age 18, Joan became active in the civil rights movement as a freshman at Duke University. When she was arrested in a peaceful sit-in, officials at Duke thought she might be "mentally ill" and forced her to call her parents. She left Duke and returned to her home in Arlington, VA where she stayed active much to the disappointment of her segregationist parents.
At age 19, Joan joined Stokeley Carmichael and others on a trip that ended in Jackson, Mississippi where she and other activists were arrested and jailed for a peaceful sit-in in the Jackson bus station. Most of the group spent two months in a crowded cell on death row at the infamous Parchman Penitentiary in Mississippi, but Joan stayed a month longer than most to pay off the remainder of her $200 fine at a rate of $3 per day.
Joan's mug shot after her arrest in Jackson, Mississippi. The photo drew special interest because it told the story of a young, white woman protesting racial inequality in the south.
By age 20, Joan had become the first white woman to enroll in Tougaloo College near Jackson, Mississippi. There she met Medgar Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King. When Dr. King came to the College, it was Mulholland who escorted him to the science building where he was to speak. While a student at Tougaloo, Mulholland was the first white student accepted into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
At age 21, Joan attended a peaceful sit-in at the lunch counter at a Jackson Woolworth's store. When a young protester was thrown to the floor and beaten and kicked, she stepped forward to fill his seat. (Joan is in the center seat at the counter in the photo below).
After being pulled from the counter and dragged outside by her hair, Joan pushed through the crowd to return to her seat. She and other protesters were cursed, called names and covered in sugar and condiments by a mob that surrounded them.
Later that year, Joan the death of the 4 children killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. She carried a momento from the bombing in her purse for many years to remind her of the day.
At age 22, Joan met with Michael & Rita Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi to provide an “orientation" on what you need to know about being safe as a white activist in the state of Mississippi. The next day, Michael and two other field/social workers from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) were murdered members of the Ku Klux Klan. The murders were the subject of the movie, Mississippi Burning.
Joan returned to Arlington, VA and where she worked at the Smithsonian Institution, the United States Department of Commerce, and the Justice Department, before teaching English as a second language until she retired. Today, she makes appearances supporting the mission of the Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Foundation whose goal is to end racism through education. The foundation was founded by Loki Mulholland, one of Joan's five sons.
While Joan has always been reluctant to discuss her accomplishments, she has received some of the reconition she deserves. Along with President Clinton, Medgar Evers and Congressman John Lewis, Joan is a recipient of the "I AM A MAN" award presented to those who have played a major role in keeping Dr. Martin Luther King's "dream" alive.
Her story has been told in the documentary "An Ordinary Hero - The True Story of Joan Trumpauer Mulholland" (available on Amazon Prime).
She has also received the 2019 International Civil Rights Museum Trailblazer Award, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated Annual Award of Honor and the Anti-Defamation League Annual Heroes Against Hate Award.
Home Contact Us Previous Events
1801 E. Cary Street - Richmond, VA 23223 - 804-986-1403