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Premiere of Hooks Documentary Will Be Highlight of Hooks Institute’s Annual Civil and Human Rights Conference April 18-20

For release: March 9, 2012
For press information, contact Daphene R. McFerren, 901-678-3974

Duty of the Hour, a film about the late Benjamin L. Hooks, will explore the long, complex, and difficult history of race in America and highlight how our nation was, and can be, transformed by committed visionaries like Hooks. Through interviews, archival film footage, and period photographs, the documentary examines Hooks’ rise from the streets of segregated Memphis to the national stage of policymaking and advocacy. This red carpet premiere begins at 5:30 p.m., Friday, April 20th, at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Memphis. The Red Carpet Premiere and Duty of the Hour were made possible by the generous contributions of many, including the following principle sponsors:  DuPont Corporation;  The Hyde Family Foundations; FedEx; First Tennessee Bank; Wal-Mart; Allstate; International Paper; Temple Israel – Rabbi James A. Wax Fund; AT&T Tennessee; and the African and African American Studies program at the U of M.  

Dr. Hooks, nominated by President Richard Nixon, was the first African American to serve on the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  He used this platform to champion increased African American ownership and employment in the media industry as well as to expose the detrimental impact of negative images of African Americans in the media.  As executive director of the NAACP, he continued to further a civil rights agenda, including demanding corporate, government, and individual accountability in addressing social justice inequities.  On November 5, 2007, President George W. Bush awarded Dr. Hooks the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in recognition of Hooks’ significant contributions to the nation’s advancement of civil rights for African Americans and others.

The Hooks Institute Conference, Toward a More Perfect Union: Civil Rights, Human Rights and Creating a New Age of Social Responsibility, on April 18-20, precedes the Red Carpet Premiere and complements the public release of Duty of the Hour.  This Civil and Human Rights Conference will explore 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 include plenary addresses by Kevin Cassidy, communications and external relations officer for the International Labour Organization of the United Nations (New York), who will address the United Nations’ role in fostering human rights through poverty reduction, education of women, and creating inclusive markets; and Professor George Chauncey, Department of History, Yale University, who will discuss the history of gays in America and the African American experience. 

Julian Bond, noted civil rights activist, will deliver the keynote address.  Bond was the founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the first African American U.S. vice presidential nominee, former chairman of the NAACP, and narrator of the award-winning documentary, Eyes on the Prize.  He is also the narrator of Duty of the Hour

The conference will feature scholars from the United States and abroad.  Distinguished panelists include Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, currently a commissioner on the FCC and the first African American woman to hold that position; Dr. Birgit Speisshofer, Berlin, Germany, an environmental attorney and partner with the Gaemo Group, whose mission is to assist businesses in combining economic goals with responsible leadership; and Melanie Hudson, executive director of Children’s Health Forum, an organization co-founded by Dr. Hooks and the late Jack Kemp, former member of Congress and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

On the evening of April 18, Hattiloo Theatre, a black repertory group, will present the one-hour play, Who Will Bell the Cat?, a portrayal of Hooks telling his story through a series of pivotal life events.  All Conference activities will be held on the University of Memphis campus, with most events taking place in the Michael D. Rose Theatre.  Parking is available in the Zach Curlin garage adjacent to the Rose Theatre.

With the exception of the Red Carpet Premiere of Duty of the Hour and the Hattiloo Theatre production, all Conference activities are free and open to the public. The public may purchase tickets to the Red Carpet Premiere at the Orpheum Theatre’s website,   From March 21 through April 6, a limited number of substantially discounted tickets for the Red Carpet Premiere are available for University of Memphis faculty, staff, and students, and may be purchased from the University of Memphis Bursar’s Office Cashiers’ Window, Wilder Tower.  Tickets to the Hattiloo Theatre performance are $10 each and may be purchased by faculty, staff, students and the public online or directly from the Bursar’s Office. 

Please consult the Hooks Institute’s website,, for detailed information about the Red Carpet Premiere of Duty of the Hour, the Civil and Human Rights Conference, and ticket information. 

In 1996 University of Memphis officials received approval from the Tennessee Board of Regents to create the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change in the College of Arts & Sciences.   The Hooks Institute’s mission of teaching, studying, and promoting civil rights and social change, is reflected in its programming which includes funding faculty research and community service projects; hosting conferences, symposia, and lectures; and promoting and recognizing local and national scholarship on civil and human rights.  The Hooks Institute archives include Hooks’ personal papers, which are housed in the Mississippi Valley Collection in the University’s McWherter Library.

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