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2020 - Civil rights foot soldier brings his story to ECC on Feb. 18

Published 02/14/2020
Elgin Community College across Lake Spartan.

Elgin Community College across Lake Spartan.

In honor of Black History Month, the Elgin Community College Humanities Center Speaker Series will welcome Thomas Armstrong, a veteran of the early 1960s civil rights movement in the south, to campus on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 11 a.m. in the Spartan Auditorium, Building G, 1700 Spartan Drive in Elgin. This event is free and open to the public.

Armstrong’s book, Autobiography of a Freedom Rider: My Life as a Foot Soldier for Civil Rights, co-authored by Natalie Bell, was released in May 2011. The book focuses on the early life of Armstrong, a native of Silver Creek, Mississippi, and the first current resident of the state to join the Freedom Rides in 1961. Shortly after his decision to publicly confront segregation, he was forced to leave home in fear of his life. Friends and family members didn’t hear from him for decades and thought he’d disappeared, never to return.

In his book, Armstrong, now living in Naperville, recounts his involvement in the early days of the struggle for racial integration in Mississippi, hoping to inspire younger generations to realize the personal power of civic engagement.

“We were ordinary people, both black and white in the South, who made it happen,” Armstrong said, “not unlike the high school, college, and university students of today.” Autobiography of a Freedom Rider has been credited as an important first-person narrative of the Civil Rights Movement by college historians, Publisher’s Weekly, and other industry reviewers.

“The purpose of the Humanities Center Speakers series is to expose ECC students to important figures from various fields and disciplines who are contributing to the enrichment of the human condition,” said Peter Han, ECC professor of humanities. “In celebration of Black History Month, the Humanities Center is thrilled to have Mr. Thomas Armstrong of the Freedom Riders come to speak to the ECC community.”

Established in fall 2006, the ECC Humanities Center Speaker Series navigates today’s intellectual landscape by bringing renowned speakers of international, national and/or regional importance to the college to speak on topics significant to the humanities for the benefit of the ECC academic community. For more information, visit