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UT Martin hosts 14th annual Civil Rights Conference


Contact 1: Joe Lofaro



MARTIN, Tenn. –The University of Tennessee at Martin’s 14th annual Civil Rights Conference, February 23-27, will focus on the theme: “Freedom Summer: Fifty Years Later.”

Dave Dennis, who worked closely with Bob Moses in Mississippi and was active in many Civil Rights organizations during the 1960s, will deliver the keynote address at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 27 in the Boling University Center’s Watkins Auditorium.

Dennis currently works for the Algebra Project, an organization founded by Moses to improve minority children’s mathematics education. He was a Freedom Rider and co-director of the Council of Federated Organizations in Mississippi.

Dr. Yohuru Williams, a professor of history and director of Black Studies at Fairfield University, will speak at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 27, also in Watkins Auditorium. He is the author of Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights Black Power and Black Panthers in New Haven and has edited several works on the Black Panther Party. He is currently completing a book titled, Six Degrees of Segregation: Lynching, Capital Punishment and Jim Crow Justice, 1865-1960.

He will also serve as a featured speaker, delivering his address titled “On the Significance of the Civil Rights Movement.”

UT Martin’s conference is one of only two civil rights conferences sponsored yearly by any public university in the United States.

The week’s activities will begin on Feb. 23 with the movie “12 Years a Slave,” which is based on the true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the twelfth year of the man’s unforgettable odyssey, a chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist changes his life forever.
The movie, shown at 6 and 9 p.m., was nominated for nine Academy Awards. The movie is sponsored by the UT Martin Student Activities Council.

At 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 24, Florence Roach, an actress who recently played a maid in the film, The Help, will present “I Am a Man.”

At 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 25, and at noon Wed., Feb. 26, Dr. Julie Hill, associate professor of music, along with her percussion students, will present “Roots of Rhythm.” Designed to demonstrate the migration of rhythm through the slave trade, the performance will provide a multi-sensory experience, encouraging audience members to observe how different societies are formed and interact through music. There is a $5 admission charge for this event.

On Wednesday, Feb. 26, the Hortense Parrish Writing Center, Humanities Building, room 209, will sponsor a workshop on the work of black writers.

Dennis’s address will end the conference’s main day, Thursday, Feb. 27. Activities begin at 9:30 a.m. with Williams’ speech.

Dr. Mark Anthony Neal will deliver his speech, “Education and Segregation in the Present Day.” Neal is is a professor of black popular culture at Duke University and a public intellectual. As a host of the webcast, “Left of Black,” now in its fourth season, Neal interviews noted scholars in the fields of race and popular culture. He is a contributor to Huffington Post’s “Black Voices” and manages the blog “New Black Man.”

“White Activists in the Southern Movement,” featuring Howard Romaine, Ed Hamlett and Roena “Bunny” Haynie will follow Anthony’s presentation.

Romaine worked on projects related to racial equality, poverty, labor and the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s as a member of the NAACP, SNCC, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and the Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC). After working on presidential campaigns for Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern, Romaine attended law school. He is currently a lawyer and writer for the Tennessee Tribune in Nashville where he continues to work on civil rights.

Born in Fulton, Ky., Hamlett grew up in Jackson, graduating from Union University in 1963. He became the SNCC director of the White Folks Project as part of Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964. In addition to his work in SNCC, Hamlett was active in SDS and SSOC throughout the late 1960s. He later became a psychiatric nurse working at Vanderbilt University Hospital until he retired in 1998.

After making an initial visit in 1963, “Bunny” Haynie, former husband Charles Haynie, and Walter Tillow worked through the summer of 1964 with faculty and students at Cornell University to support voting rights in Fayette County. The trio led a group of mostly Cornell students to West Tennessee to conduct a voter registration drive among sharecroppers.

Haynie coordinated housing, communication, and protection, as activists visited homes to help people complete voter registration forms, taught citizenship classes, and organized transportation for new registrants. She now lives in the Kansas City area.

All events will be held in the Boling University Center’s Watkins Auditorium unless otherwise noted. There is no admission charge, unless otherwise noted, and the public is encouraged to attend.

For more information, contact Dr. Renee Lafleur at 731-881-7534 or by email at


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