Anderson Civil Rights Activist and Surgeon Motivates Students at Lecture Auditorium
By Nadia Felder
On Oct. 22, in Perry Paige Lecture Hall on Florida A&M’s (FAMU) campus, Civil Rights activist and surgeon Dr. William Anderson shared his journey through the challenging Civil Rights movement and offered imperative advice to students.
Despite the hardships in his life, especially being born in the Jim Crow era, Anderson set his sights on success. He attended Alabama State College for Negroes, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1949. Anderson admitted that although he didn’t want to attend Alabama State, after receiving his degree he knew the South is where he would be needed most.
“They didn’t need me in Detroit, Mich,. They needed me in southwest Georgia,” said Anderson.
“Don’t forget where you came from people…because there are those who are watching you to see what you will do with your education,” Anderson said to students. “If you don’t go back and help someone with your education, you have failed.”
The help that Anderson provided resulted in over 200 babies being delivered during a period where Black mothers and Black doctors were prohibited from several hospitals in America. Of those babies, one of them is now a professor at FAMU.
Dr. Wachell McKendrick, instructor in the college of Social Work, Arts and Humanities, mentioned how she couldn’t believe the email she received which read Anderson was coming to FAMU.
“I was sitting back there thinking ‘I don’t believe this is happening’ and ‘this isn’t real,’” said McKendrick. “This guy was standing there when I entered the planet! It was very surreal.”
Dr. McKendrick, 56, also shared that before she was born, her family worked with Anderson in the Albany, Ga. Movement.
The movement, under the umbrella of Civil Rights, focused on desegregation by petitioning for a biracial commission within the city government. The Albany Movement was organized by Dr. Anderson and was a combination of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Criterion Club and the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
As a result of becoming president of the Albany Movement, Dr. Anderson was able to become acquaintance with civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Rev. Ralph Abernathy.
“Make friends with people before you need them, because you never know who you will need,” Anderson said.
Ambassador for the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS) and a graduating senior, Mariah Henry, said it was legendary to hear Dr. Anderson speak, not only at her university, but inside CAFS.
“He could have been anywhere else on campus, but he is here,” said Henry.
Henry later mentioned that she, as an agriculture student, felt inspired by Anderson’s words ‘Go where you are needed.’
“Being that my major is not the most desired major…those words that he said I think we needed to hear,” Henry stated.
Following his speech, there was a Q&A period, where Dr. Anderson answered questions regarding his book, “Autobiographies of a Black Couple of the Greatest Generation”. Copies of the autographed book by Anderson and his wife, Norma Anderson, were available at discount to students and faculty at the event.
The purpose of the occasion was for students to experience history and to find motivation from the words of a civil activist. The event was organized by the Division of Research staff Dr. Timothy Moore, Dr. Keith Parker and O.S. Lamar Sheffield.