My introduction to Jibreel Khazan came more than 20 years ago on my late afternoon talk program, during the first time I worked for WBSM. Dr. Khazan became a regular caller to the program.

What struck me first about Khazan's calls was his youthful sound. What captivated me about him were his words. Khazan's calls were thoughtful and well-constructed and always left me feeling I'd learned something without being lectured.

Khazan's good-natured stories about growing up as a black child in Greensboro, North Carolina, south of the Mason-Dixon Line, during the 1940s and '50s were riveting and uplifting. I was delighted to hear about his relationship with his mother, who he said called him "Junior."

New Portrait Honors New Bedford's Jibreel Khazan
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Jibreel Khazan was born Ezell Alexander Blair, Jr. in Greensboro, North Carolina October 18, 1941. He attended James B. Dudley High School, where his father taught.

In 1963, Khazan graduated from A&T College with a bachelor's degree in sociology and social studies. Khazan also attended Howard University, the University of Massachusetts, and the New England Conservatory of Music.

Inspired by his father and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Khazan became involved in the struggle against racial injustice.

While freshman at A&T College on February 1, 1960, Khazan and three other students challenged the segregation policies at F.W. Woolworth's in Greensboro, which refused to serve Black people at its lunch counter.

New Portrait Honors New Bedford's Jibreel Khazan
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Khazan, Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain and David Richmond would become known internationally as the "Greensboro Four," catalysts for the American Civil Rights Movement.

The seats from the Woolworth's counter are now on display at the Smithsonian Institution.

Khazan moved to New Bedford in 1965 and worked as a teacher and a counselor. He changed his name from Ezell Blair, Jr. in 1968 upon joining the Islamic Center of New England.

Khazan married Lorraine France George of New Bedford. The couple had three children.

An oral historian, Khazan lectures when he can.

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Khazan received an honorary doctorate of humanities degree from North Carolina A&T State University in 1991. Khazan was presented with the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal from the Smithsonian Institution in 2010.

A statue of the Greensboro Four was erected on campus at North Carolina A&T State University.

New Portrait Honors New Bedford's Jibreel Khazan
Townsquare Media Photo

A park in the West End of New Bedford was named for Khazan in October 2021. A portrait of the civil rights leader hangs at the New Bedford Free Public Library on Pleasant Street.

A newly-completed portrait of Khazan by New Bedford Police Lt. Scott Carola is awaiting presentation. Khazan, in declining health, was recently hospitalized.

Carola said he would see Khazan walking the streets in Downtown New Bedford.

"But I had no idea of who he was or his history," he said.

Once Carola learned that Khazan was a member of the Greensboro Four, he wanted to honor him with a portrait.

Carola hopes to be able to present the portrait to Khazan when his health improves.

New Bedford Park Renamed for Civil Rights Hero

A New Bedford park was recently renamed in honor of city resident Dr. Jibreel Khazan, known as one of the "Greensboro Four" who in 1960 staged a sit-in protest at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.

LOOK: 50 essential civil rights speeches

Many of the speakers had a lifetime commitment to human rights, but one tried to silence an activist lobbying for voting rights, before later signing off on major civil rights legislation. Several fought for freedom for more than one oppressed group.

Keep reading to discover 50 essential civil rights speeches.

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