MIDDLEBURY, VT - Maxine Atkins Smith, a long-time civil rights activist and 47-year member of the NAACP, will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the 2011 Middlebury College commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 22. Smith earned her master’s in French from Middlebury in 1950.
Smith is a former executive secretary of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP and currently sits on the National Board of Directors. She was integral in helping to organize the desegregation of Memphis public schools in 1960, and has fought for civil rights and educational equality throughout her career, organizing lawsuits, sit-ins and marches.Smith sat on the Memphis Board of Education from 1971 until her retirement in 1995.
“Maxine Atkins Smith has devoted her life to ensuring that African Americans in this country have the same access to education as anyone else,” stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. “From escorting schoolchildren during the desegregation era, to supporting the first African American superintendent of Memphis schools, and later serving as President of the Memphis Board of Education, Smith has been a trailblazer for equal rights.”
Smith has received more than 160 awards for her efforts on behalf of educational equality and civil rights, including the National NAACP Leadership Award, the Bill of Rights Award from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Whitney H. Young Jr. Award from the National Education Association, and the Freedom Award from the Memphis-based National Civil Rights Museum in 2003.
The Middlebury College commencement ceremony will be held outdoors regardless of the weather on the main quadrangle behind Voter Hall on College Street (Route 125) at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 22.