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Activist Jane Elliot to speak on power, perception, prejudice as part of Black History Month

Elliot famous for creating Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes project, a sensitizing exercise

02/13/06

Activist and lecturer Jane Elliott is speaking at Xavier as part of Black History Month on Monday, Feb. 20, at 7:00 p.m. in the Cintas Center. A former elementary teacher from Iowa, Elliott has committed herself to leading a fight against racial ignorance in society. Elliott is famous for creating “The Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes Project” in her third-grade classroom in all-white, all-Christian Riceville, Iowa, immediately after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The sensitizing exercise labeled the participants either inferior or superior based on the color of their eyes. This allowed many white people to experience the feeling of being discriminated against in the same way that society often discriminates against women, people of color and the disabled.

“Painful as it is,” Elliott says, “my exercise is not invasive. It forces people to think in new ways.”

Elliott has conducted her exercise throughout the country for the past 30 years and today works with college students in hopes of influencing the next generation. Her work was featured in several documentaries including the Emmy award-winning “Eye of the Storm.” Elliott has appeared on Oprah, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and a number of television specials including ABC's Person of the Week with Peter Jennings.