Historian and Civil Rights Activist Paul Gaston Dies at 91Historians in the News
tags: obituaries, Paul Gaston
Paul M. Gaston, a professor emeritus who died June 14 at the age of 91, often spoke and wrote about the University of Virginia’s early days of segregation and desegregation – because he was someone who had been there. A Southern white man from Alabama, he became a historian of the American South and an activist in the local civil rights movement in Charlottesville.
Gaston came to UVA’s Corcoran Department of History in 1957 and taught generations of students for 40 years. He was instrumental in the forming of the Carter G. Woodson Institute of African-American and African Studies and getting civil rights leader Julian Bond to join the faculty.
Back in 1962, Gaston served as faculty adviser to a liberal, interracial student group, the Human Relations Council. He helped bring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at the University in 1963. He participated in protests to integrate a local movie theater and restaurant, getting beaten and arrested in the process.
After he retired in 1997, Gaston continued writing essays about that history in which he had participated. Often praised and awarded for his involvement and courage in civil rights activities, he was quick to credit others, including students, black and white.
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