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U of U Symposium to Focus on Teaching the Civil Rights Movement

Though too young to vote, Bobby Simmons proclaims his convictions on his forehead.  After he walked all the way to Montgomery, Bobby said, "You be rejoicing once you accomplish your goal and get there." Selmaâ Montgomery, Alabama, 1965

“Legacies of the Civil Rights Movement,” a month-long symposium on four Utah college campuses, will conclude October 3-4 at the University of Utah with the theme, “Teaching the Movement.”

Symposium events at the U begin with a keynote address from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Monday, October 3, by Dr. Clayborne Carson, professor of history at Stanford University and director of Stanford’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute.  Carson’s address, “The Global Significance of the Southern Grassroots Freedom Struggle,” will take place in the Film & Media Arts Building Auditorium on the U campus.  Selected in 1985 by the late Coretta Scott King to edit and publish the papers of her late husband, Carson has devoted most of his professional life to studying Martin Luther King, Jr., and the movements King inspired.

The U symposium continues Tuesday, October 4, with a panel discussion from noon to 2:00 p.m. in the Marriott Library’s Gould Auditorium.  Moderated by Robert Goldberg, director of the Tanner Humanities Center, the panel will include Carson; Jon Else, a documentary filmmaker who served as producer and cinematographer for the PBS series, Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years; Vincent Harding, a Civil Rights Movement veteran, movement author, and Professor of Religion and Social Transformation at Iliff School of Theology ; and Judy Richardson, a movement veteran, early staff worker with SNCC, associate producer of Eyes on the Prize, and author of the recently published, Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC.

Both U symposium events are free and open to the University community and the public.

The symposium sets the stage for the debut of This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement, a major, new traveling exhibition that will open at The Leonardo in Salt Lake City on October 8. The exhibit is sponsored by the Center for Documentary Expression & Art (CDEA).

“Legacies of the Civil Rights Movement” seeks to deepen public engagement with the exhibition and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole, providing an open public forum to examine the role of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the impact of “ordinary” people on the southern freedom struggle of the 1960s.

“Since the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee has been overlooked by popular media accounts of the movement, which emphasize the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the symposium offers a unique opportunity for students, educators, and the general public to expand their knowledge of the movement and American life,” said Hank Liese, CDEA board chair and director of doctoral studies in the U’s College of Social Work.


The symposium is co-sponsored by the Center for Documentary Expression & Art (CDEA), Utah Valley University, Salt Lake Community College, Westminster College, the University of Utah, KUED-TV, and the Salt Lake City Downtown Public Library, “Legacies of the Civil Rights Movement” kicked off September 12-13 at Utah Valley University, with the theme, “New Movement Scholarship.”  The symposium then moves to Salt Lake Community College September 19-20, where it will focus on “Freedom’s Struggle, Then and Now.”  Hosting the symposium September 26-27 is Westminster College, with the theme, “Through our Lenses: Art and Activism.”  For a full schedule of symposium events, please visit

The symposium at the U is made possible through the generous support of the U’s Colleges of Education, Fine Arts, Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Social Work; the Tanner Humanities Center; the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs; and KUED-TV.


This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement, produced by the CDEA, is a paradigm-shifting exhibition that presents the southern freedom struggle through the work and voices of nine activist photographers—men and women who chose to document the national struggle against segregation and other forms of race-based disenfranchisement from within the movement.

“Unlike images produced by photojournalists, who covered breaking news events, these photographers lived within the movement—primarily within the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee framework—and documented its activities by focusing on the student activists and local people who together made it happen,” said Liese.


The Center for Documentary Expression & Arts (CDEA) is dedicated to using the tools of documentary work – photography, oral history, film making, narrative writing, radio broadcasting, and visual art – to help Utahns look inward to better understand the state’s past and present, and to gaze outward to discover our connection to the nation and to the world. CDEA creates and supports projects that examine and honor the cultural, spiritual, and ethnic identities of our nation’s diverse population in forums wherein we can acknowledge differences, establish common ground, and hence, build community.