Dr. Everett McCorvey, director of the University of Kentucky’s Opera Theater program, is performing this week with his American Spiritual Ensemble in Ireland to mark John F. Kennedy’s visit to the country 50 years ago in June 1963. Just months before the president’s assassination, his visit to his ancestral home was marked by optimism of peace and success in the country, similar in some ways to his hope for his own country, which was in the midst of a bitter civil rights battle.
A young black boy growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, at that time, Dr. McCorvey experienced first-hand the unrest and fear that was reaching a fever-pitch across the country and particularly in the Deep South of the U.S.
He shared some of his reflections with us while in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to mark another 50th anniversary. In 1963, JFK summoned the National Guard to force then-Governor George Wallace to allow black students to attend the University of Alabama. It was a pivotal moment in the struggle for civil rights that eventually led to racial integration in Alabama’s public schools.
Dr. McCorvey’s American Spiritual Ensemble performance to commemorate JFK’s visit to Ireland is part of The Gathering 2013, an Irish government initiative to draw its native sons and daughters home for a year of celebration. To mark JFK’s trip, Ireland and Alltech partnered to bring surviving members of JFK’s family to the Emerald Isle, where they are participating in a number of civic celebrations.
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