About the Award
This event, first staged in 1991, brought to campus distinguished academics from the fields of education and humanities and, in 2013, shifted to a documentary film award, bringing to campus filmmakers who prepared documentaries on education and history in the American southeast.
The 2019 Witten Documentary Awardee is Joan Trumpauer Mulholland.
Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, the recipient of the 2015 National Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom Award, is a Civil Rights Legend who participated in over 50 sit-ins and demonstrations by the time she was 23 years old. She was a Freedom Rider, a participant in the Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-in, and helped plan and organize the March on Washington. For her actions she was disowned by her family, attacked, put on death row and hunted down by the Klan for execution.
Her path has crossed with some of the biggest names in the Civil Rights Movement: Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Robert F. Kennedy, John Lewis, Diane Nash, John Salter, Julian Bond, and Harry Belafonte. As a white southern woman her courage and fortitude in the Movement is highly regarded and recognized. Joan has appeared in several books including “Coming of Age in Mississippi”, “Breach of Peace”, “We Shall Not Be Moved”, and the new illustrated kid’s books about her life, “She Stood For Freedom”. She has appeared on television and news programs like the “CBS Nightly News,”and her story and experiences were highlighted in award-winning documentaries including “An Ordinary Hero,” PBS’s “Freedom Riders,” “Standing on My Sister’s Shoulders” and the groundbreaking film “Eyes on the Prize.”
Beyond sit-ins and demonstrations, Mulholland took other actions to disrupt racially divisive systems in the South. Mulholland dropped out of Duke University and later enrolled at Tougaloo College as a purposeful act of defiance. About this action she says, “Now if whites were going to riot when black students were going to white schools, what were they going to do if a white student went to a black school?” Joan was the first white student to attend Tougaloo College, a Historically Black College in Mississippi and the first white member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.