IMG_0993Civil Rights Today

The battles of the civil rights era left us with laws that promised equality to all, a level playing field. But while we have made progress in that direction, the field is still far from level.  When people talk about racial tension today, the discussion typically moves to the uncomfortable tragedies in which someone attacks an African American, and to the ensuing backlash.  Unfortunately, such incidents didn’t stop after the civil rights movement; it’s just that the greater transparency available to us today through the use of cell phone videos and the Internet have heightened our awareness.  With that increasing awareness comes a greater willingness to take action.  This is the civil rights movement of today.

Speaking Topics

Jo Ivester describes why she wrote The Outskirts of Hope, starting as an act of love and respect for her teacher-mother, Aura Kruger, and growing into a vivid description of how the actions of one family can truly have an impact. Intermingling anecdotes with selected readings, Jo shares how she and her family spent two years in an all-black town in Mississippi during the turbulent 1960s, walking the walk of the civil rights movement.
Aura Kruger taught at-risk students for over twenty years, serving in classrooms from rural Mississippi to the inner cities of Miami and Los Angeles. Her internationally recognized work led to an appearance on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and interviews with the Los Angeles Times, Reader’s Digest, and Time Magazine. In this talk, Jo Ivester uses selected readings from The Outskirts of Hope to illustrate her mother’s early days as a white teacher at a rural, all-black high school in 1967, during the height of the civil rights movement.
Tikkun Olam is an ancient Hebrew phrase that translates as “repairing the world.” When writer Jo Ivester’s father, Dr. Leon Kruger, joined President Johnson’s War Poverty in 1967, he left his pediatric practice in Boston to run a clinic in Mound Bayou, an all-black town in the Mississippi Delta. His wife, Aura Kruger, although initially reluctant to move, taught English at the local high school, where she became a beloved and controversial figure. In this talk, Jo describes their experience as the only Jews in town, reflecting on how they were met with anti-Semitism, despite the tradition of Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement.
It can be overwhelming to contemplate the difficulties in racial relations. In this last year alone, we have witnessed the terrible results of police violence, along with a tremendous backlash in black communities. We have seen people murdered while participating in a bible study class in an act reminiscent of the burning of black churches in the 1960s. We are often left with a feeling that we are unable as individuals to have an impact. However, when we hear personal stories, we find it easier to relate and are inspired to become involved. In this talk, Jo Ivester presents her family’s story in an honest, blunt manner, thus helping to break through the racial barriers we all face.


Jo is an engaging, eloquent speaker. A natural storyteller with an important message. Her presentation generated a lively follow-up discussion and bookstore patrons talked about it for days.

—Emily Katzman, Off the Beaten Path Bookstore

Jo is a warm and engaging speaker. Her story is another piece of the narrative about 1960s race relations in the rural south. It resonated with everyone, especially those of us who grew up Jewish in small towns.

—Lisa Cohen Quay, Director of Senior Adult Programs, Austin Jewish Community Center

Jo blessed us by expressively sharing with honesty her amazing journey in the Mississippi Delta during the 1960s. She inspired us and gave us hope for a better future. Jo is an excellent speaker with a message everyone needs to hear.

—Peggy Greenawalt, Librarian and Book Club Facilitator, Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church

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