​The 213-A Scholars Program

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

Last month, a little bit of Little Rock, Ark., and a lot of Civil Rights history found their way to Sewanee.

In September of 1957, Minnie Jean Brown-Trickey walked with her classmates to the entrance of Little Rock Central High School (LRCHS). Together, they were the Little Rock Nine, a group of nine black students who enrolled at the formerly all-white high school. Their enrollment was met with racist abuse from both classmates and their families.

Sixty-three years to the month after Brown-Trickey enrolled at LRCHS, she spoke to the University’s 213-A scholars about her early education, her experience living in the Jim Crowe south and about her work following her education.

“The 213-A Scholars program was launched last year to cultivate leaders who are able to drive positive change in their lives and world. The program rightly honors the legacy of Houston Roberson, Sewanee’s first African-American professor. He was an exemplary historian and a mentor to students and colleagues alike. In his honor, 213-A Scholars provides students from diverse backgrounds with a platform for rigorous educational advancement, professional development and deep exploration of their personal commitment to civic action and social justice,” said Karen Proctor, special assistant to the University provost and cofounder of The 213-A Leaders Program.

As a part of the 213-A program, students are given the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage — one that is grounded in the history of social justice and civil rights history and aimed at providing context and guidance for present-day issues.

“We recognize that history matters. It provides context for our present challenges, and quite frankly, it humbles us when we consider the sacrifices and courageous acts that paved the way. This fall, our pilgrimage is virtual. It features reflective conversations with social justice leaders, past and present, and our aim is still the same — to glean from their experiences and reflections. We’re putting ourselves in sacred spaces with living legends to whom we are indebted,” Proctor said.

Laura Botros, a freshman at the University and a 213-A Scholar, said she left the discussion feeling empowered.

“There was something about hearing from her that we are capable of changing things that felt different. When she said it, it came from someone who took that and put it into action. She was brave and stood up to all of the forces at play. It was empowering to hear it from someone with the kind of experience she has,” Botros said.

Hellen Wainaina, class of 2018 and assistant editor of the Sewanee Review, is over the Sewanee Literary Society, which is a component of the 213-A scholars program focused on literacy, said the conversation was aimed at illuminating for the students the parts of themselves that can be tapped into for leadership.

“This conversation was a great opportunity for the students to gain insight on leadership and get really engaged in ways that they haven’t quite figured out yet. Not everybody can be Martin Luther King Jr. or Angela Davis. We all have our channels and we can be advocates and work toward bettering our society in whatever channel we’re in,” she said.