Author Of Book On American Indian Civil Rights Pioneer Sets Public Reading
OXFORD, Miss. - Easily mistaken as a quote from the 1960s, the words of Ponca chief Standing Bear nearly a century earlier were frequently cited during the turbulent civil rights era:
"That hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be of the same color as yours. I am a man. The same God made us both."
Part of an eloquent plea made by Standing Bear at the close of his 1879 trial to Judge Elmer Dundy, the statement undoubtedly distinguishes the Indian chief as one of America's first civil rights heroes.
Joe Starita, the Pike Chair of Journalism at the University of Nebraska, penned "I Am a Man - Chief Standing Bear's Journey for Justice," which is to be officially released Jan. 5 by St. Martin's Press. Starita discusses the work at a book signing at 5 p.m. Jan. 4 at Off Square Books in Oxford.
"Chief Standing Bear was one of the first minority rights court cases in America," said Bill Rose, University of Mississippi visiting journalism professor. "Later, during the civil rights movement in the '50s and '60s, civil rights lawyers would even cite the Standing Bear case."
The book examines the story of Chief Standing Bear, who simply wanted to bury his only son in their native Nebraska homeland. The landmark 1879 federal case that ensued eventually granted constitutional protections to American Indians.
A UM alumnus, Rose once worked with Starita at the Miami Herald. Starita spent 14 years there, four years as the newspaper's New York bureau chief and four years on its investigations team.
"Joe was a tenacious and high-principled reporter," Rose recalled.
Interested since his youth in American Indian history and culture, Starita returned to his native Nebraska in 1992. He previously penned "The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge: A Lakota Odyssey" (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1995), which won the Mountain and Plains Booksellers Award and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
An educator, journalist and author, Starita will take part in a new semester-long journalism program at UM this spring. Aimed at inspiring undergraduates to make a real difference as journalists, the Delta Project will examine the rays of hope emerging in the impoverished Mississippi Delta.
For more information on the UM School of Journalism and New Media, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/journalism.
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12/28/09 Contact: Media & P.R., 662-915-7236
University of Mississippi