The Original Fayette County Civic and Welfare League Scholarship

This scholarship fund advances the educational opportunities of African- American students in Fayette County to create a more just nation and world.

History of the Fund

The Fayette County Civil Rights Movement began in 1959 when John McFerren and Harpman Jameson, both African-Americans, attended the trial of Burton Dodson, a black man accused of killing a white deputy sheriff.  During the jury selection for Dodson’s trial, it became apparent that that there were only few African-Americans who could serve on Dodson’s jury because most African-Americans in the county were not registered to vote.  At that time, jury pools were selected from the voter registration lists. 

At the urging of Dodson’s attorney, James F. Estes, an African-American, McFerren, Jameson, and others organized African-Americans to register to vote.  In 1960, white landowners began retaliating against African-Americans who registered, most of whom were sharecroppers, by evicting them from their farms.  Shephard Towles and Gertrude Beasley, two African-American farmers who owned their land, allowed evicted sharecroppers to move onto their farms.  Because these families had few resources and needed immediate shelter after eviction, Movement leaders set up tents to house them.  These makeshift dwellings became known throughout the United States and other parts of the word as “Tent City,” and came to symbolize the denial of basic civil rights to African-Americans living in the American South.

The evictions only fueled the determination of Fayette County African-Americans, who believed that they were entitled to the same constitutional rights as whites, to force change by organizing mass demonstration marches and economic boycotts of white merchants.  These African-American leaders successfully obtained the intervention of the federal courts to enforce their civil rights.  As a result of their efforts, African-Americans were able to register and vote in mass numbers for the first time; schools were desegregated; the disparity in pay between black and white teachers was narrowed; and African-Americans gained access to public and private schools. 

In December 2010, The Original Fayette County Civic and Welfare League Scholarship Fund was established by Viola H. McFerren (President), Mary Williamson (Secretary), Levearn Towles (Treasurer), James Braswell (Board Member), and Daphene R. McFerren (the daughter of John and Viola McFerren).  This scholarship fund was created from the proceeds of 2008 sale of the building called the Community Center.  Movement activists constructed the Community Center during the 1960s to create a place where they could hold meetings and other activities to advance the cause for civil rights for African-Americans.  

Eligibility Requirements

All applicants must:

  • be African-American students graduating from a public high school in Fayette County, Tennessee;
  • have a minimum 2.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale;
  • read the History of the Fayette County, TN Civil Rights Movement (referred to as The History and provided with the scholarship application); and
  • submit the Original Fayette County Civic and Welfare League Scholarship application form and the required attachments.

A complete application includes:

  • completed Original Fayette County Civic and Welfare League Scholarship application form;
  • one-page essay describing how The History impacts their education and career goals to advance the social, economic, racial, or other conditions that affect African-Americans. Applicants should also describe any academic or extracurricular activities (for example, church, community, or other service) that demonstrate a commitment to serving the African-American community in Fayette County, Tennessee, or in the United States;
  • two current letters of recommendation from teachers, clergy, or persons other than family members who are familiar with the your skills and abilities;
  • most recent high school transcript;
  • copy of your ACT and/or SAT scores; and a
  • copy of your Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) Student Aid Report (SAR) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC) information.

This scholarship may be awarded to more than one student. Each scholarship award will be approximately $1,000.

Applications for this scholarship are due April 2, 2018.