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Open House for Raylawni Branch: Inspiring Change Through Action Exhibit March 4

Wed, 02/28/2024 - 10:35am

An open house will be held from 3 – 6 p.m. Monday, March 4 to highlight items from the recently processed Raylawni Branch Collection, currently on display in the north foyer of McCain Library and Archives at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM). The exhibit, Raylawni Branch: Inspiring Change Through Action, will remain available for viewing through March 29 in conjunction with Black History and Women’s History Months.

Raylawni Branch and Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong-Chamberlain were the first two African American students to integrate USM in 1965. During the Civil Rights Movement, Branch participated in several activities, including the March on Washington in 1963. She was involved in the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Leaving Hattiesburg for New York in 1966, she continued her nursing studies at St. John’s Episcopal School of Nursing and the University of Miami. In 1975, she joined the Air Force Reserves, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. She earned a master’s degree from USM in Community Health Nursing and worked as an instructor at Pearl River Community College and USM. She remains an active member of the community, advocating on behalf of the underprivileged and veterans.

The Raylawni Branch Collection was processed under a grant by the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The grant project also included the papers of civil rights advocates, Sue Sojourner and Sheila Michaels.

The University will hold the 31st annual Armstrong-Branch Distinguished Lecture the following day, Tuesday, March 5. The lecture will take place at 7 p.m. in the Thad Cochran Center ballroom.  

Galleries featuring the exhibition, Gene Taylor: South Mississippi’s Choice for U.S. Congress, 1989-2011, and the Tasha Tudor dollhouse will also be open for viewing during the open house on March 4.

For more information, contact Lorraine Stuart at 601.266.4117.