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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 grassroots.


Hooks conferences and symposia have included the following:

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.


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.  


Obama ConferenceThe 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 race theorists.

Click here for Conference Schedule


 Fayette CountyThe Fayette County, Tennessee Civil Rights Movement: How African Americans Changed Themselves, Their Community and Their Nation By Demanding the Right to Vote, October 27-28, 2006. 

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 borders. 


Civil Rights Movement 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. 


 Outsider to Insider PoliticsFrom Outsider to Insider Politics: African American Political Power and the Mayor’s Office, 2004

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. 


New National Civil Rights AgendaToward 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. 



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Last Updated: 10/10/14