Speaking from experience

ROCHESTER, Minn. – More than 60 years have passed since the civil rights movement, but Dr. Sonnie Hereford III recalls each memory as though they happened just yesterday.

The memories of the civil rights movement are bound to the history books, but to get a chance to share that experience with those who lived it, is something Mercy Clinic could not pass up.

“Now to talk to you a little bit about life in Alabama, everything was separate but equal. You know about that don’t you? Separate but equal,” said Dr. Hereford.

“In my talks, I try to start out by telling them how things used to be and mention the people who try to change them and how they were after they were able to change,” said Dr. Hereford.

As a Physician, Dr. Hereford was able to serve his community as one of the few African-American doctors practicing in the segregated south.

As a civil rights activist, he and his family would work to break barriers any way they could include his son, Sonnie Hereford IV who would become the first student to integrate a segregated school in Alabama.

“33 years old before I could actually go to the public library of my small town that my father and grandfather have paid taxes in all their lives,” said Dr. Hereford.

“There’s nothing in history book or even on a television report with moving pictures that is the same as hearing and seeing somebody who lived it,” said Dr. Sharonne Hayes, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Mayo Clinic.

Last week, Doctor Hereford spoke to students at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse and will end his tour by the end of the month in his home state of Alabama.

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