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Our Mission 

Teaching, Studying and Promoting Civil Rights and Social Change

The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change advances its mission of teaching, studying, and promoting civil rights and social change primarily through education, research, innovative campaigns, and community engagement.


Read the 2023 Hooks Institute Policy Papers

The Promise and Peril: Unpacking the Impact of AI and Automation on Marginalized Communities

Read the 2023 Policy Papers > Policy Papers 2023 Cover

The 2023 Policy Papers analyze the impact of AI and automation on marginalized communities in three crucial areas.

  • In "Regulating Facial Recognition Technology to Reduce Bias" Khortlan Becton, JD, MTS, explores the urgent need to regulate AI to eradicate existing and potential policies and practices that dispro-portionately discriminate against African Americans and minorities. Becton proposes the creation of a new federal agency to regulate AI.
  • In "Automation and Artificial Intelligence in the Field of Social Work: Understanding Technology in Practice" Susan Elswick, EdD, LCSW, a faculty member in the University of Memphis School of Social Work, seeks a path to us-ing AI and Automation to provide social work counseling to those in need. Elswick not only explores how effective cli-ent counseling is dependent upon access and ability to use technology by clients but also argues that social workers require formal training from institutions of higher learning on how to use AI and automation to benefit their clients.
  • In "The Impact of Automation on Our Workforce" Meka Egwuekwe, MS, founder and executive director of Code Crew, approaches AI and automation from the per-spective of a practitioner who teaches others to write computer code. Recognizing that the world is experiencing a revolution in how work is performed, Egwuekwe proposes recommendations that reskill or upskill the workforce, increased support for startups and small businesses, and a societal framework that will embrace universal basic income as a resource to aid those displaced by AI and Automation.

Upcoming Events

Stay tuned for news and updates on upcoming Hooks Institute events! Events are free and open to the public unless otherwise stated.


Tennessee General Assembly Honors Fayette County Activists and the University of Memphis Hooks Institute with Resolution 

Tennessee State Legislature

The Tennessee General Assembly recently passed a resolution to honor the activists from the Fayette County Movement and the documentary, website and exhibitions created by the University of Memphis Hooks Institute to preserve and analyze the history of this movement. 

Before the General Assembly voted on the resolution, Hooks Institute Executive Director Daphene R. McFerren made brief remarks on the critical importance of preserving this historical work to help ensure equity and social justice for future generations. Her remarks received a standing ovation from the General Assembly.

Click here for more on the resolution >

See What Hooks Has Been Up Too

Read the 2021-22 Hooks Annual Report >

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Who We Are

  • We transform adults and students through our work including financial literacy training, public lectures, and documentaries on civil rights and social justice.
  • We provide ongoing coaching and mentoring to African American male and female college students to help them achieve successful graduation and professional outcomes.
  • We have trained federal and local government personnel on community inequalities by using research from Hooks Institute.  This research has also been cited by the media and included in documentary broadcasts. 
  • We use the collective scholarship of the university to eradicate inequality and to create prosperity in our communities. 
  • We are the only university Institute in the State of Tennessee with a community engagement, scholarship, and research mission to remove discrimination and inequality in Memphis and beyond.

Who We Serve

  • The University of Memphis community, Memphis and Shelby County, the state and the nation. These entities connect to our work through our publications, lecture series, documentaries, and social media.
  • Teachers who receive training from Institute staff on civil rights history and use our materials in their classrooms.
  • African American male students and female students enrolled in  HAAMI or ASATT.
  • Faculty at the University of Memphis who receive grants that enable them to fund research focused on societal disparities and their causes. 
  • Individuals, grassroots leaders, government officials and business leaders who can find valuable research and policy conclusions set forth in the Institute’s Policy Papers. 
  • Historians who are researching or seeking information about social justice or civil rights especially as it applies to events in the Mid-South.
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