Project Description

Columbia, South Carolina (January 20, 2020) – As a day-on commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment and ultimate sacrifice for social justice in America and around the world, members of Voorhees College’s W. Franklin Evans Honors College viewed the critically acclaimed blockbuster movie, Just Mercy as a King Day activity. The film viewing took place subsequent to honors students and honors council members engaged in the common reading of Just Mercy: The Story of Justice and Redemption Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. 

The memoir, turned blockbuster film details the trajectory of Harvard law school graduate, Bryan Stevenson, whose career pathway leads him on a personal mission and professional commitment to provide legal counsel for those that have been wrongly accused and condemned to death. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Alabama, a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. The memoir describes the enduring racism and legal and political obstruction, Stevenson and EJI faced as he takes on what will become the case of his lifetime by defending Walter McMillan, an African-American who is sentenced to die in 1987 for the murder of an 18-year old White girl. Despite irrefutable evidence of McMillan’s innocence, the local Alabama court system rooted deeply in the traditions of the Confederate South refused to release McMillan. As such, Stevenson has more than his share of work cut out for him.

“A common reading among the honors community is a staple activity that reinforces the message that reading is an integral part of the college experience and to foster a sense of community among honors scholars, the honors council, and the entire campus,” stated Dr. Ronnie Hopkins, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “I am pleased that the Honors College engages students in social justice issues and motivates them to take action and uplift the ambition of their communities,” continued Hopkins  

Just Mercy was selected as this semester’s common reading, coupled with our movie viewing to highlight the critical issue of defending the wrongly condemned,” offered Karen Countz, Coordinator of the W. Franklin Evans Honors College. “We believe that the scholarly activity would greatly appeal to our honors students, regardless of their disciplines and career tracks,” Countz added. 

Presidential Scholar, Denzel Walls, junior, Business Administration major from Springfield, GA stated, “To me the book and movie are powerful. It’s not often that something can make you feel all of your emotions, but Just Mercy does that. I think it’s as a book and a movie that everyone would greatly benefit from the reading and viewing experience.”

Denise Freeman, junior, Biology major from Monrovia, Liberia agrees with Walls. She stated: “Individuals were wrongly blamed and mistreated because they were black. There was a lack of compassion in the justice system. I strongly recommend both the book and the movie to my peers. It is important to read the book because the movie did not fully touch some major parts of the book.” 

“I really enjoyed every aspect of the movie. It was especially important to me because my family can relate to what the families went through having someone in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. It’s very painful and difficult for a family to handle,” stated Calvin Coach, junior, Sports Management major from New Ellenton, SC.  

Alasia Duncan, junior, Accounting major from Charleston, SC stated, “The movie was a great experience to see what people of color went through back then, and even in the present. The book gave me a better picture and detailed information about the problems in the criminal justice system today.” She added, “Even when you didn’t commit a crime or do anything wrong or while at home minding your own business, or being at the wrong place at the wrong time, Just Mercy made you think about what can happen to you or anyone you love.”

“I had such a magnificent time on the honors college trip to see the movie JUST MERCY. The film was touching and educative. A very gifted young black man who had all odds against fought consistently for justice for those he believed deserved it,” stated Dawn Freeman, junior, Biology major from Monrovia, Liberia.

“The Honors College has a plethora of enriching events and co-curricular activities scheduled for spring 2020, including visiting the Cecil Williams Civil Rights Museum in Orangeburg and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and planning study abroad experiences,” Countz added.  

W. Franklin Evans College at Voorhees College 

Contact Ms. Karen Countz, Coordinator for the W. Franklin Evans Honors College and Human Resources Generalist at 803-780-1181 or kcountz@voorhees.edu. Also, visit https://www.voorhees.edu/news/voorhees-presents-the-2019-w-franklin-evans-honors-college-inductees.

Voorhees College

Voorhees College is a private, historically black college (HBCU) in Denmark, South Carolina, United States affiliated with The Episcopal Church. Voorhees College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Voorhees College. Visit www.voorhees.edu.