Toward a More Perfect Union: Civil Rights, Human Rights and Creating a New Age of
Social Responsibility, April 18-20, 2012
This Civil and Human Rights Conference explored the civil rights activism of Dr. Hooks,
the current state of civil rights activism and its relevance to life in America today,
and the role of the Civil Rights Movement in shaping and defining issues being tackled
by international human rights movements.
Conference highlights included plenary addresses by Kevin Cassidy, communications and external relations officer for the International
Labour Organization of the United Nations and Professor George Chauncey, Department of History, Yale University. In addition,
Julian Bond, noted civil rights activist, delivered the keynote address.
Distinguished panelists included Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Dr. Birgit Speisshofer,
Berlin, Germany, an environmental attorney and partner with the Gaemo Group, and Melanie
Hudson, executive director of Children’s Health Forum.
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Hooks Annual Conferences
The annual conferences of the Hooks Institute have become signature events in the
university and greater community. Conferences are constructed around in-depth explorations of local or national problems
that might provide strategies or tactics for addressing local concerns in Memphis. To encourage maximum attendance, the Hooks Institute does not charge conference participants
a registration fee. The Institute believes that it is imperative that most, if not
all, conference events remain free to the public to encourage social change at the
Hooks conferences and symposia have included the following:
Education as a Civil Right and Economic Driver: Empowering Individuals for the 21st
Century and Beyond, April 8-9, 2010.
National and local leaders gathered at the University of Memphis to explore the idea
that a quality education should be a constitutional right and create economic opportunities
for individuals and their communities. Sessions covered such topics as the critical role of science education in maintaining
U. S. competitiveness, legal challenges and remedies for deficiencies in public education,
the economic mobility created by a post-secondary education, and educational reform
initiatives in Memphis.
The Obama Phenomenon: Race and Political Discourse in the United States Today, April 3-4, 2009.
The historic election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States and the
implications of that event for the nation were the subjects of a major conference
sponsored by the Hooks Institute at the University of Memphis. Scholars from around the nation explored expressions of thought and public reaction
to persons and events associated with Obama’s candidacy, including media images of
Barack and Michelle Obama, the potential impact on minorities of President Obama’s
proposed public policy agenda, the use of Islamophobia against Obama, the question
of the “post-racial society,” and interpretations of the Obama candidacy by critical
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The Fayette County, Tennessee Civil Rights Movement: How African Americans Changed
Themselves, Their Community and Their Nation By Demanding the Right to Vote, October
Fayette County civil rights activists, community members, and scholars gathered to honor movement activists and to hear lectures and
commentary placing this movement into the historical context of other notable civil
rights events and to discuss its relevance to issues of equality today.
Southern Faith, Labor and Community Alliance Conference, July 2006.
The architects of the 1968 Sanitation Workers Strikein Memphis gathered with union
organizers, labor activists, clergy, and people of faith. The conference’s goal was to promote unity of purpose among these groups with the
hope of developing a common agenda for examining and working on labor issues.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Symposium, March 24-26, 2005.
The Center for Research on Women at the University of Memphis and the Hooks Institute
convened this multidisciplinary, international symposium that addressed social inequality
and social justice activism, both locally within NAFTA’s signatory countries and across
The Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, 2004.
Leading Memphis civil rights advocates — Maxine Smith, Vasco Smith, H. T. Lockard,
Russell B. Sugarmon, Jr. and Benjamin L. Hooks— discussed the prominent role the City
of Memphis and its African American community leaders played in the fight for racial
equality long before the tumultuous events of the 1960s. Hooks delivered the keynote address. The symposium also featured a display of civil rights era photographs by the acclaimed
late Memphis photographer Ernest Withers.
From Outsider to Insider Politics: African American Political Power and the Mayor’s
David N. Dinkins of New York City, Richard G. Hatcher of Gary, Indiana, and Willie
W. Herenton of Memphis discussed their experiences as the first African-American mayors
of their respective cities and the broader implications of the transition in urban
leadership for American society and democracy.
Toward a New National Civil Rights Agenda, 2004.
Current and former members of the United States Congress, including Mike Espy, Harold
Ford, Jr., Harold Ford, Sr., Eleanor Holmes-Norton, and the late Stephanie Tubbs-Jones,
focused on the current and future roles of African American elected officials in constructing
a continuing national civil rights agenda.