UT Voting Rights Symposium Jan. 28-29

The University of Tennessee will hold a symposium Jan. 28-29 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The opening ceremony will be held at the Hodges Library auditorium. All other events will be held in the UT University Center.

Among the speakers will be some of the key architects of the legislation, which removed laws designed to discourage African-Americans from voting.

UT History Professor Cynthia Fleming, symposium organizer, said it’s worthy to take another look at the history of the civil rights movement.

“The civil rights era, from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, had a tremendous impact on this country,” Fleming said. “The whole legal, social, economic and educational landscape changed as a result of the movement.”

Fleming said the removal of legal barriers such as racial segregation opened up opportunities for everyone.

“Had we not achieved educational integration, I wouldn’t be here as a professor at the University of Tennessee,” she said. “The whole notion of being more tolerant of each other, of recognizing the strength of diversity in our society, all of that grows directly from the civil rights movement.

“That’s why we need to regularly pause and remember what happened,” Fleming said.

Speakers at symposium sessions Friday, Jan. 28, and Saturday, Jan. 29, include Dr. C.T. Vivian, a member of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s inner circle and director of affiliates for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Charles Jones, an attorney who headed the voter registration wing of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

A highlight of the symposium will be Saturday’s concert of civil rights-era music, led by Guy and Candie Carawan of Knoxville and Bettie Fikes of the SNCC Singers.

All events are free and open to the public. A schedule is available at http://www.artsci.utk.edu/VotingRights_Commemoration.asp.