Some key figures from the civil rights community will play a key role in funeral services for Cleveland Donald Jr., one of the first African Americans to graduate from the University of Mississippi and a veteran of the civil rights battles that helped topple barriers to integration in that state.
Civil right pioneers Charles Evers and James Meredith, as well as Donald’s brother, retired Maj. Gen. James E. Donald, are to speak at services planned for Donald, 11 a.m. Saturday at the Cade Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Jackson.
Donald died of natural causes last week in New Milford, Conn., where he taught history at the University of Connecticut and was former director of the UConn Waterbury campus.. He was 65. Donald attended Tougaloo College but later enrolled at the University of Mississippi in 1964 where he earned an undergraduate degree and started the school’s Black studies program.
His involvement in the civil rights movement in the state included being among the students who, after an anti-segregation protest, were hauled away in garbage trucks to detention at the stockyard buildings at the state fairgrounds in 1963.
He obtained graduate degrees at Harvard and Cornell universities and held faculty and administrative positions at the University of Texas, the State University of New York and the University of Massachusetts where he was a vice chancellor. He was also an ordained minister.
He was among the young Blacks involved in the Jackson Movement that Mississippi NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers led from 1961 to 1963.
After Evers was assassinated on June 12, 1963, Cleveland Donald made a vow to his family, his brother recalled. “He said, ‘They can have my life because I am not going to let this deter me from changing things in Mississippi.’ “