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Local Teacher to Receive Human and Civil Rights Award

Uses Civil Rights era tragedy to teach students about race and humanity


WASHINGTON - July 02, 2008 -

Christopher Maly, an English and drama teacher in Lincoln, Neb., will receive the National Education Association's H. Councill Trenholm Memorial Award at the Association's 42nd annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner on July 2, 2008, in Washington, D.C.

NEA's Trenholm award is presented to individuals who have expanded educational opportunities for minority students and educators, and improved intergroup relations in public schools.

Maly used the 1955 racially motivated and brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till as the basis of a play he wrote and his students performed. It took Maly four years to pen and stage "The Unsafe Star: The Emmett Till Story." Maly's presentation of Till's story dives into the tragedy, as well as the strength and courage shown thereafter of Till's mother, Mamie.

Lincoln High students brought the play to the stage late last year, performing to standing room audiences. The play also created unprecedented participation in the school's theater activities by Black students.

The successful run of the play at Lincoln High prompted an invitation for the students to stage the play at the Lied Center for Performing Arts, Nebraska's premier public performance stage.

"Everyone has a favorite teacher, one who's made us want to learn-and then learn more," says NEA President Reg Weaver. "Christopher Maly turned a horrific event in this nation's history into a learning opportunity for all his students.  And for that, he's very much deserving of this honor."

H. Councill Trenholm (1900-1963) served for 21 years as executive secretary of the predominantly Black American Teachers Association. One of the country's most outstanding Black educators and President of Alabama State University, Trenholm helped build ATA's membership and strength and worked for the eventual merger of ATA and NEA.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Contact: Stacey Grissom  (202) 822-7823