Civil rights activist Maria Gitin Lectures

March 27, 2015

On April 21, Penngrove native Maria Gitin will read from her memoir, "This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight," as part of Sonoma State University's Africana Lecture Series.

Gitin's memoir details the dramatic but little known Freedom Summer of 1965. Her book is based on her letters home and more than 30 interviews with Black activists she re-contacted four decades later.

Gitin will speak about her intensive training, being arrested and being chased by the Ku Klux Klan, and what it was like to be a young woman in the civil rights movement. She will share first person accounts from Black activists she knew and worked with including Charles Bonner, a Sonoma State alumnus and Selma student activist.

Gitin was an idealistic 19-year-old freshman at San Francisco State College when she felt called to action by Martin Luther King Jr. after viewing the brutal beating of voting rights demonstrators during Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. She immediately volunteered for the Summer Community Organization and Political Education voter registration and education project of King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Atypical among white civil rights volunteers, Gitin came from a rural lower income family so she raised funds to attend an intensive orientation in Atlanta led by Dr. King, Rev Andrew Young, Mrs. Septima Clark and other now-legendary leaders. She then was assigned to Wilcox County, Alabama, one of the most violently segregated counties in the South, just 37 miles from Selma.

The event includes historic slides, reading and discussion, and is followed by a book signing, in room 3001 of the Schulz Information Center, April 21, noon to 1 p.m.

The Africana Lecture Series is a weekly series offered by the American Multicultural Studies Department, featuring guest presentations and discussions that focus on historical and contemporary topics relating to people of African descent. Gitin's talk is co-sponsored by the History Department, School of Arts and Humanities, School of Social Sciences and University Library. It is free and open to the public.

For more on "This Bright Light of Ours," visit