Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement

Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement

by Freeman A. Hrabowski III


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An education leader relates how his experiences with the civil rights movement led him to develop programs promoting educational success in science and technology for African Americans and others.
In Holding Fast to Dreams, 2018 American Council on Education (ACE) Lifetime Achievement Award winner Freeman Hrabowski recounts his journey as an educator, a university president, and a pioneer in developing successful, holistic programs for high-achieving students of all races.

When Hrabowski was twelve years old, a civil rights leader visited his Birmingham, Alabama, church and spoke about a children’s march for civil rights and opportunity. That leader was the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., and that march changed Hrabowski’s life.
Until then, Freeman was a kid who loved school and solving math problems. Although his family had always stressed the importance of education, he never expected that the world might change and that black and white students would one day study together.
But hearing King speak changed everything for Hrabowski, who convinced his parents that he needed to answer King’s call to stand up for equality. While participating in the famed Children’s Crusade, he spent five terrifying nights in jail—during which Freeman became a leader for the younger kids, as he learned about the risk and sacrifice that it would take to fight for justice.
Hrabowski went on to fuse his passion for education and for equality, as he made his life’s work inspiring high academic achievement among students of all races in science and engineering. It also brought him from Birmingham to Baltimore, where he has been president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County for more than two decades. While at UMBC, he co-founded the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, which has been one of the most successful programs for educating African Americans who go on to earn doctorates in the STEM disciplines.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807052440
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication date: 06/21/2016
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 786,175
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III is a recognized leader and innovator in American higher education.  He chairs the US. President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.  He has been named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” and one of the “10 Best College Presidents” by Time, and he is the recipient of a Top American Leaders Award from the Washington Post and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership. He and his wife, Jacqueline, live in Owings Mills, Maryland, and have a son, Eric.

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From The Introduction

They were crying. Our parents—perhaps a hundred or more—had come to hold an evening vigil of song and prayer for all the jailed children, and as they looked up at the walls of the detention center where we were held, they openly wept. They wept at the thought of their children in narrow, overcrowded cells; they wept out of fear for and maybe also pride in those children they held so dear; they wept, frustrated with an oppressive system whose time to go had come.

Tears streamed down our own faces as we looked back out the jailhouse windows at our mothers and fathers outside. Our emotions were raw.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood with our parents. With his words, he comforted us all and lifted us up. His voice carried from where the crowd gathered, and we, the children sent to jail by the segregationists of Birmingham, Alabama, listened carefully as he strengthened us, saying that what we had achieved by marching and willingly going to jail would change the lives of children not yet born.

What we children had achieved.

Changing the lives of others not yet born.

I was twelve at the time and could not yet fully grasp either Dr. King’s meaning or his vision. I could not imagine that I would one day be president of a university that embraced a diverse student body of whites, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and students from a hundred or more countries. At the time, I had never even seen people of different races seated together or learning together; I had never spoken to anyone of another race.

For now, I was sitting behind bars, wondering not so much about generations to come but about my own future. When would I get out of this jail? What could I expect of the future? Would Birmingham, Alabama, the South, or America change so that someone like me, who was excited about school, could get an education and follow my dreams wherever they took me, even though I was black?

Ahead of me was a long journey through five decades, a journey from Birmingham to Baltimore, during which I worked to fulfill my dream of providing greater opportunity for high-achieving students so they could realize their potential, regardless of their backgrounds. This book is the story of that journey. It began in Birmingham, a city that was briefly and critically the epicenter of the civil rights movement in the spring and summer of 1963.

Table of Contents


1. Standing Up for Justice

2. Development of an Educator

3. Inclusive Excellence in Science and Engineering

4. Raising a Generation of Achievers



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