Worcester State University
Center for the Study of Human Rights

History of the Center

About Dennis Brutus

Former Worcester State University President Janelle Ashley called Dennis Brutus a “beacon of hope for human rights around the world.” An outspoken activist, educator, and poet, Dr. Brutus confronted issues such as racism and the detrimental impact of globalization on impoverished nations. His devotion to human rights began in the 1950s and continued throughout his life. In the 1950s and 1960s Dr. Brutus protested against the South African apartheid government and played a crucial role in having South Africa banned from the Olympics. He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to 18 months of hard labor on Robben Island where he met Nelson Mandela. Upon his release, Dr. Brutus fled to England and later to the United States where he continued to protest against the apartheid government. Worcester State University supported Dr. Brutus in his efforts to obtain political asylum in the U.S., which was granted in 1983. He delivered the inaugural address for the Center for the Study of Human Rights in 1982, the day before he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters for both his courageous and undaunted activism in South Africa and for his distinguished achievement as a poet. Out of gratitude, Dr. Brutus left many of his manuscripts to the university. His relationship with the University, in particular the Center for the Study of Human Rights, lasted for many years. Dr. Brutus participated in many human rights programs, conferences, and lectures. He continued to donate documents to the college and in March of 2000 the Dennis Brutus Collection, which is housed in the Learning Resource Center, was unveiled. This collection of numerous primary and secondary documents are available to individuals for research. Dr. Brutus passed away in 2009, but his dedication and inspirational message of human justice lives on.

About Merrill Goldwyn

Dr. Merrill Goldwyn was an English professor at Worcester State University for 30 years. Dr. Goldwyn challenged his students to consider human rights issues with literature that incorporated issues of social justice. Dr. Goldwyn was first inspired to bring human rights to the university after meeting former political prisoners at an Amnesty International event in the early 1980s. Soon after, he established the Center for the Study of Human Rights and invited Dennis Brutus to be the inaugural speaker. Dr. Brutus would continue his relationship with Dr. Goldwyn and the University for many years to come. In November of 2008, Worcester State University announced the establishment of the Merrill Goldwyn Fund to commemorate the man who spread the message of social justice and helped create the Center for the Study of Human Rights.

About Sarah Sharbach

Dr. Sarah Sharbach was a history professor who challenged her students to have a greater understanding of social justice. She enlightened her students on the injustices that Native and Latin Americans face. Dr. Sharbach also played a significant role in community service, initiating several events that highlighted human rights issues. She was also a member of the Center for Human Rights Steering Committee, a founding member of the Diversity Advisory Committee, and curriculum coordinator for the Women’s Studies Program. Her legacy lives on in the Dr. Sarah E. Sharbach Memorial Scholarship, which is available to students who have financial need and demonstrate passion for social justice.

Related Links
  Dennis Brutus Collection
  Amnesty International
  Human Rights Day

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