Joan Mulholland and her son Loki Mulholland answer questions from students.

An ordinary hero: Civil rights activist visits Pierce

Civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland visited Pierce College Puyallup on Dec. 3.

Amber GillilandSenior Reporter

Civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland arrived at Pierce College Puyallup on Dec. 3 to speak with students, faculty and community members.

The sold out event was held in the theatre in the Allied Arts and Health building It began with a performance from the 16 students in the Pierce College Chamber Choir.

After the song, Pierce College Puyallup President Marty Cavalluzzi introduced Loki Mulholland, a film producer and Joan’s son. In 2013, Loki created a documentary about his mother’s fight for civil rights, titled An Ordinary Hero.

“When I started the film, she was just mom,” Loki said. “When I finished, she was my hero.”

The documentary was then shown to the full theatre and described Mulholland’s early life and  involvement in the civil rights movement.

Described as a white supremacists worst nightmare, Mulholland grew up in the south and was a Freedom Rider in the 1960s. She’s participated in numerous sit-ins, including the Jackson Woolworth lunch counter sit-in which is known as the most famous and violent sit-in of the civil rights movement. She’s also known for being a white woman who integrated Tougaloo College in Mississippi, a historically black college.

In 1961 Mulholland and many other Freedom Riders were arrested and sent to Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm, a violent prison in Mississippi. Mulholland was put on death row. She was 19 years old.

After the film, Mulholland and Loki walked onto the stage to a standing ovation from the audience.

Microphones were passed around and audience members asked Mulholland questions.

One question that arose was why Mulholland cares enough about the community to fly around the country and tell her story.

“The community is the future; it’s all of us,” Mulholland said.

She also gave advice on how to make a difference in today’s society.

“Get out there and do something,” Mulholland said. “The problems are interconnected.”

Despite her many contributions to the civil rights movement, Mulholland doesn’t believe that she’s a hero.

“I was just a little person in a great mass of humanity,” Mulholland said.

After the event,  a catered reception was held in the lobby outside the theatre. Mulholland signed posters and took photos with the attendees.

The idea for the event started with professor Beth Stevens who saw on Facebook that Mulholland travels around the country to present at schools.

“I just thought, it has to happen for Pierce College,” Stevens said.

Stevens worked with a team that included the Office of Student Life and Cavalluzzi, to make this idea a reality.

Stevens hoped that the event would not only help students learn more about the civil rights movement, but also to understand how much power they possess.

“Joan Trumpauer was a college student just like our student body,” Stevens said. “A lot of times students don’t understand their power. They don’t understand their agency to change the world around them.”

At the end of the event, Stevens expressed how pleased she was with Mulholland’s presentation.

“She was every bit more fabulous than we knew she would be,” Stevens said.

More information about Mulholland and the film can be found at


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An ordinary hero: Civil rights activist visits Pierce

by Amber Gilliland time to read: 2 min