What’s Past is Prologue

BY SAMANTHA SOTOS, Neighborhood News Bureau

ST. PETERSBURG — Since Dr. Gregory B. Padgett was eight years old, he knew he wanted to be a college professor.

“Some people say, ‘This is what I do’ but for me, this is what I am,” said Padgett.

Photos by Ivelliam Ceballo

Growing up in the 1950s and experiencing first hand civil rights laws taking effect, it gave him motivation to want to improve and make a difference.

For the past 26 years, Padgett has been an Associate Professor of History at Eckerd College, and when Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) sought him out to teach a civil rights class, he quickly accepted.

Since racial tensions have ramped up in recent years because of police brutality and debates of the Confederate Flag, just to name a few, OLLI offered a class this year to show how far we have come since the Civil Rights Movement.

‘What’s Past is Prologue: The Civil Rights Movement In the United States’ is the official title of the class and Padgett traces the development of the Civil Rights Movement from the end of World War II to 1975. The class studies the organizations that supported African-American social activism and compares it to how it still resonates in today’s society.

Ronnie Tobin is one of the 20 students enrolled in the class.

“It was very interesting to me because it accomplished a couple of things. One it was a trip down memory lane. There were a lot of things that I was involved in the ‘60s and ‘70s that we reviewed and that was a worthwhile experience. Two I learned things that I didn’t know that were happening that were not well publicized at the time,” said Tobin.  “I enjoyed the interaction with other people in the class and getting their perspective. Overall I found it worthwhile.”

This class met three consecutive Wednesdays in February for two hours at the Midtown campus of St. Petersburg College.

“I think it’s an excellent venue,” said Padgett. “It’s in the heart of the neighborhood.”

OLLI offers a variety of classes geared towards the older community who would like to continue on the path of self-discovery through a variety of learning experiences. Classes cover history, politics, art, science, literature and more.

If interested, log onto www.eckerd.edu/olli/.

Samantha Sotos is a reporter in the Neighborhood News Bureau at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

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