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Al Cutright

Degree/Area of Study

Associate in General Studies

Class of Year
Community Member
Valley Political and Civil Rights Icon Fulfills Education Dream
Estrella Mountain Community College

Al Cutright, age 82, graduated from Estrella Mountain Community College in May 2018 – a goal finally realized. You might recognize his name. Al is a living history of the country’s early struggles for civil rights.

Along with 12 younger siblings, Al Cutright moved to Arizona for a “better life.” It wasn’t uncommon for African Americans to move their families for a job opportunity. “When we came to Arizona, it was because my father’s sister, Aunt Mertha. She said that Blacks had more opportunity to work and be paid more,” said Cutright. “Unfortunately, most of this was following the crops. While in Arkansas, Missouri, and Ohio, our family participated in sharecropping.”

Al spent most of his youth helping his father in a new church plant in a new little community called El Mirage. As the town grew, and Cutright grew up to become more involved in the civil rights movement, he served on the city council for fourteen years. He served under four police chiefs as police commissioner.

“I have met a lot of great people including Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Barry Goldwater, President Clinton, and Henry Cisneros, worked with Benjamin Brooks and Clovis Campbell on many community initiatives. I was able to bring most of these great people to the church and let the people know what was going on around them and listen to how they can affect the community. Former Secretary of State Art Hamilton was my guest along with Rev. Oscar Tillman with the NAACP. All of the greats have either graced the pulpit or at a minimum heard me speak of the greatness of the church on Doris Street,” said Cutright.

It was history and inspiration for young students that made Cutright a student and an advocate at Estrella Mountain Community College.

“Al was a student in my Cultural Anthropology class and did a study on African American leaders in the community and educated the students on Black and Civil Rights history and culture. He also studied Rap Literature, where his insight on Black music was a powerful teaching tool. He studied American and Black History, providing real life insight into the Civil Rights movement,” said EMCC professor Dr. Carlotta Abrams. “In poetry class, Al wrote many poems about his experience growing up in the heartland of America. He wrote about seeing and experiencing moonshiners farm life in the 1940s, the economic migration to Arizona, and how this was for Blacks.”

Al Cutright hasn’t stopped impacting lives in his 82 years. He continues to give back to the community. “Al actively assisted struggling students of all races at EMCC, giving them confidence in their studies. He was an active participant in Black History Month, giving talks and history lessons,” said Dr. Abrams.