|Talk, meetings to redefine civil rights movement, examine school resegregation|
|Wednesday, March 04, 2009|
“Jim Crow’s Last Stand: Fighting Educational Inequality North and South,” will be the title of a talk by author Thomas J. Sugrue on April 3 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The free public talk by Sugrue, who wrote “Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North” (Random House, 2008), will be at 7:30 p.m. at UNC’s Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History. The center is off South Road near the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower.
Henry Louis Gates Jr., a black history scholar at Harvard University, called “Sweet Land of Liberty” “a revelatory, daring and ambitious book that overturns the conventional histories of America’s struggle for civil rights. This is one of those rare books that completely re-orients our understanding of the past.”
Sugrue’s talk will highlight one of two conferences at UNC April 2-4. One examines the resegregation of schools; another challenges traditional understandings of the civil rights movement. More than 200 activists, historians, lawyers and others from across the country will attend each meeting.
Spaces remain in the April 2 conference, “Looking to the Future: Legal and Policy Options for Racially Integrated Education in the South and the Nation,” at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on Stadium Drive. The conference is sponsored by the UNC School of Law’s Center for Civil Rights and co-convened by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Education Policy and Evaluation Center at the University of Georgia.
“The Long Civil Rights Movement: Histories, Politics, Memories,” April 3-4 in Hyde Hall, is booked except for the Sugrue talk. Its purpose is to re-examine the civil rights movement chronologically, demographically, thematically and geographically, expanding its reach beyond the confines of the South and the tumultuous decade from 1954 (Brown v. Board of Education) to 1964 (passage of the Civil Rights Act). Speakers will describe the movement’s origins in the 1930s and ’40s and the activism it inspired through the end of the 20th century.
The second conference is part of a three-year project, “Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement,” funded in part by a $937,000 grant to UNC from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation of New York. Principal investigators for the project are Julius Chambers, director of the Center for Civil Rights in the School of Law; Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, director of the Southern Oral History Program in the Center for the Study of the American South; Richard Szary, associate University librarian for special collections and director of Wilson Library; and Kate Douglas Torrey, director of UNC Press.
The grant is part of a Mellon Foundation program to advance scholarship by developing new ways of connecting the publishing activities of university presses with the academic priorities of their universities. Torrey said the grant will allow the press to explore new ways of linking audio, textual materials and photographs and experiment with digital forms. The press also plans to publish books inspired by the conferences.
In “Looking to the Future” on April 2, panelists will consider the future of public education in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, which limited what school districts may do to pursue racially integrated schools.
Panel topics will include “Making the Case for Racially Integrated Education” and “Achieving Racial Equity Through Strategic Public Policies.” For more information and to register, visit http://www.law.unc.edu/centers/civilrights/conferences/default.aspx.
“Today our nation stands at a crossroads,” said Chambers, the civil rights center director, who argued the landmark case Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971.
“We can do nothing and allow a half century of legal and social victories for our nation’s children to be reversed, or we can apply our knowledge to address the resegregation crisis,” said Chambers,
“The Long Civil Rights Movement: Histories, Politics, Memories,” April 3-4, will examine “Labor Rights Are Human Rights: Mexican Americans and African Americans and the Struggle for Justice in Postwar America,” “Global Dimensions of the Long Civil Rights Movement” and “Jim Crow’s Last Stand: Fighting Educational Inequality North and South.”
Other panel topics will include “From Black Power to Barack Obama,” “The Long Backlash Against Civil Rights” and “Blacks, Latinos and the Politics of Work.” For more information, visit http://lcrm.unc.edu/index.php/conference/.
Hall said she hopes the conference will help to redefine how scholars write about the civil rights movement. “By confining the struggle to the South, to a single halcyon decade and to limited, non-economic objectives, the familiar 1960s narrative simultaneously elevates and diminishes the movement,” she said.
“The scholarship presented at this conference pushes the conversation in new and exciting directions, helping to ensure that one of the most remarkable mass movements in American history speaks effectively to the challenges of our own time,” Hall said.
Sugrue’s 1996 book, “The Origins of the Urban Crisis” (Princeton University Press), won the Bancroft Prize in American history from Columbia University, the Philip Taft Labor History Book Award from Cornell University and the Urban History Association Award for Best Book in North American Urban History. Princeton University Press named the book one of the 100 most influential of the past 100 years.
Sugrue is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of history and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. For more information, visit http://www.history.upenn.edu/faculty/sugrue.shtml.
Note: For more on the Mellon grant, visit http://uncnews.unc.edu/news/
Southern Oral History Program contact: David Cline, (919) 962-5931,