The University of Tennessee at Martin hosts its 15th Annual Civil Rights Conference next week. Conference Director, Assistant Professor of History Renee LaFleur previews the multi-day event whose keynote speaker is presidential historian and Director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library since 2009, Mark Updegrove. On Sounds Good, Kate Lochte speaks with LaFleur about the theme of how President Johnson's "Great Society" contributed to the Civil Rights Movement and other featured speakers at the event.
The theme is Lyndon B. Johnson and the Great Society at 50, focusing on his contributions to the advancement of civil rights, not just with the voting rights and civil rights acts, but also fighting for things like economic equality, issues of hunger, LaFleur says.
Dr. Rebecca Miller Davis, assistant teaching professor of history, University of Missouri, Kansas City, titled “Crossing the Bridge: Selma and Voting Rights.” Dr. Laurie Green, associate professor of history, University of Texas at Austin, on "Hunger and Race in Memphis" during the 1960s with attention to the influence of St. Jude Hospital dealing with malnutrition amongst infants. Tammy Wade, Head Start program manager, explores the origins of one of the most well-known programs to come out of the Great Society program.
Mark Updegrove, director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, gives the keynote. He takes to task historical inaccuracies of the portrayal of leaders in movie and television - in this case the film Selma - by going to the source, saying things like "No, Johnson wasn't a reluctant participant in the Civil Rights Movement," La Fleur says the portrayal of Johnson in Selma wasn't entirely accurate. She cites a conversation between Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in which they negotiated boots on the ground and political tactics, with Johnson working the legislative political side and King leading the grassroots effort.
In addition to the presentations, Florence Roach, an actress and producer from Memphis, returns to the conference with an original play around the theme, this year it's "Before, During and After LBJ," which has acting, singing, dancing and student involvement. Roots and Rhythm, a student percussion group, traces the drum rhythms from Africa to North and South America. Students wear costumes and dance. LaFleur says this a kid-friendly activity.
The events will be held in Watkins Auditorium at the University Center in Martin, off of University Avenue.