Mercer University to Celebrate Women’s History Month with Presentation by Civil Rights Activist, Author Dr. Maria Gitin

Staff Report From Middle Georgia CEO

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

Mercer University will commemorate Women’s History Month with a lecture by Dr. Maria Gitin, civil rights activist and author, March 24 at 6 p.m. in Willet Science Center auditorium.
Dr. Gitin’s presentation, titled “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight,” will feature stories of her experiences and those of her courageous companions, accompanied by a slideshow of seldom-seen historic photos.
As a 19-year-old freshman at San Francisco State in 1965, Dr. Gitin felt called to action after viewing televised images of brutal attacks on nonviolent demonstrators in Selma, Alabama, an event that became known as Bloody Sunday. She immediately volunteered for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Summer Community Organization and Education project. After intensive training in Atlanta, she was assigned to Wilcox County, Alabama. Her life-changing experiences included speaking at mass meetings, being arrested and learning the role of whites in the black freedom fight.
“This is an opportune moment to welcome Maria Gitin to Mercer. The struggle to ensure that every citizen has equitable access to vote is far from over,” said Dr. Natalie Bourdon, associate professor of women’s and gender studies and anthropology. “Gitin’s engagement with grassroots activism and collective organizing will inspire our community to continue working for racial justice. I look forward to a very engaging presentation.”
Dr. Gitin’s memoir, also titled This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight (University of Alabama Press), is based on her original letters and on reunions with grassroots freedom fighters who risked their lives to work side by side with a Northern white girl.
Atypical among white civil rights volunteers, Dr. Gitin came from a low-income rural family in northern California. Her early influences included her Quaker grandmother, anti-war activist aunt and Japanese-American and Jewish classmates at Penngrove Elementary School.
Dr. Gitin has continued to fight for racial justice and to register voters in diverse communities for more than five decades. She is a frequent presenter on cultural competency and voting rights, and has received numerous racial justice awards and commendations including from the YWCA, NAACP, State of California Assembly, Alabama House of Representatives, U.S. Army’s Defense Language Institute and U.S. Congressman Sam Farr.
She served for 28 years as principal of Maria Gitin and Associates development consulting group, and also was a member of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation national training team and coach for CompassPoint’s Fundraising Academy for Communities of Color. She has led trainings for the W.K. Kellogg and Tides foundations and presented at national conferences, including the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Among other projects, she founded an emergency shelter for survivors of domestic violence and a public library foundation.
Dr. Gitin is a current member of Bay Area Civil Rights Veterans, Temple Beth El and the NAACP.
She earned her B.A. from Antioch University and did undergraduate work at San Francisco State College.