Author Matt Holland spoke at Creighton University Tuesday afternoon on the history of the Omaha DePorres Club as well as Omaha’s history of the civil rights movement.
The Rev. John Markoe, S.J., and Denny Holland founded the Omaha DePorres Club on the Creighton campus in November of 1947. Before being forced to move to a new location in October of 1948, the club took action by visiting with local pastors and priests to figure out why black students were not allowed to enroll in their schools. This resulted in the admission of black students in many of the local parochial schools. Their goal was to eliminate racial discrimination and segregation in the Omaha area by working closely with local religious and business leaders, holding club events and meetings.
“The purpose of this event was to bring someone who is connected with the DePorres Club to create awareness of their influence towards changing (racial discrimination and segregation) policies in Omaha,” Minh Le, N.S.J., said.
Matt Holland, son of founder Denny Holland, visited Creighton on Tuesday with the hopes of educating Creighton students and faculty members, along with other members of the Omaha Community, on the history of the Omaha DePorres Club and some of the surrounding civil rights issues that were taking place when the club first started in the late 1940s.
Holland stated that if there were one message to take away it would be, “the ability to make a difference even though other people might say that you can’t.”
Holland wrote a book called Ahead of Their Time, which was published in July of 2014. This book highlights the story of founding the Omaha DePorres Club. The book explains some of their goals and accomplishments and also shows the impact of their work in the Omaha community. In the lecture, Holland touched on some of the information in the book and talked about his inspiration to write this story. After the conclusion of the lecture, copies of the book were sold and Holland stayed to sign them and take questions from the crowd.
As someone who is new to Creighton and new to Omaha, Le said that he was very impressed with what he learned at Holland’s lecture.
“It was very enriching for me to understand a little bit more about the history of Omaha, the history of civil rights in Omaha as well as the history and role that the Jesuits played. Overall, it was a very enriching experience,” Le said.