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Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Professor produces human rights TV series

For a 10-week, half-hour PBS special documentary series on the 25-year history of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, Tony Stewart reviewed hundreds of articles, videos and letters in his personal files.

The show will air at 10 a.m., Sundays, beginning on Jan. 8, on KSPS channel 7 in Eastern Washington; on cable channel 12 at 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Saturdays, beginning Jan. 7,  in North Idaho, and on other public broadcasting stations that reach Western Canada, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada.

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart

Tony, a professor of political science at North Idaho College (NIC), hosts and produces “The Public Forum” TV shows and coordinates the Popcorn Forum Lecture Series.

He began the Popcorn Forums  shortly after he came to NIC 36 years ago from North Carolina—and after one year on the faculty at Washington State University in 1970.

Along with preparation of the series, Tony donated his personal human rights collection to the NIC library, which already has the 1,200 from the Popcorn Forums and Public Forums.  His collection, which goes back before the task force, tells a history of the region, he said.  The materials will be put into digital format and be on the North Idaho website.

“I lived through the process of human rights advocacy in the area, keeping memorabilia, even papers from other parts of the country and letters from civil rights and national leaders,” said Tony, who worked through the summer on the series, which he did to honor those who worked for human rights in the task force and around the Northwest.

“I want future generations, especially future students at NIC, to learn from these materials, to gain a sense of history so they will have courage to act when it’s necessary,” Tony said.  “I gained courage from those who went before or were contemporary—Susan B. Anthony, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I hope that as students learn about history they will decide to continue to pass on the torch,” he said.

“I grew up in North Carolina in the 1960s during the time of Dr. King and the civil rights movement.  I was geographically close, and was a student of political science and history.

“Ever since I was a young boy, I have had a passion about people’s dignity and rights.  I never dreamed that some day I would be as personally involved as I have been here in such an effort,” commented Tony, who has shared the story of the task force’s work for human rights at many churches and organizations.

For information, call (208) 769-3325.