Daphene R. McFerren

Hooks Institute Executive Director

Daphene McFerrenIn 2008, Daphene McFerren became the executive director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis. In this capacity, she oversees strategic initiatives, program development and implementation, staff management, and financial oversight of the Hooks Institute's operations.

Ms. McFerren has produced or contributed to the production of several notable documentaries. These include "Freedom’s Front Line: Fayette County, TN" (2008), which chronicles the grassroots civil rights movement in Fayette County from the 1950s to the 1970s and won the 2008 Director’s Choice Award at the Black Maria Film and Video Festival. She was the executive producer of "Duty of the Hour" (2016), a documentary on civil rights activist Benjamin L. Hooks, which aired on WKNO-TV Memphis and KCET Los Angeles, earning the 2013 Director’s Citation at the Black Maria Film and Video Festival and the 2016 Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust Recognition. Additionally, she produced "The Civil Rights Movement: A Cultural Revolution" (2014), which explores the movement's influence on music, fashion, and culture, receiving multiple Telly Awards and an Award of Merit at the 2014 Best Shorts Competition. More recently, she served as executive producer and producer for "Facing Down Storms: Memphis and the Making of Ida B. Wells," which premiered on April 19, 2022, in Memphis, TN.

Ms. McFerren has been featured in various media outlets for her interviews on civil rights and social justice. In February 2023, she was a keynote speaker on these topics for both the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General.

Before her tenure at the Hooks Institute, McFerren practiced law privately in Washington, DC; served as senior counsel in the Office of General Counsel at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; was counsel to the late Attorney General Janet Reno; and worked as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, where she prosecuted cases of forced labor and involuntary servitude involving foreign victims.

In November 2023, McFerren was honored with the Memphis Business Journal's "EXPAND Diversity in Business" Award. Previously, in 2016, the Memphis Business Journal named her a Superwoman in Business, and Bizwoman included her in its list of "100 Women to Watch in the U.S."

On February 23, 2023, the Tennessee General Assembly passed Senate Resolution 33, recognizing the Hooks Institute efforts to memorialize the Fayette County civil rights movement through exhibits, websites, and a documentary. McFerren’s parents, John and Viola McFerren, were seminal leaders of the Fayette County, Tennessee Movement.

On April 18, 2024, McFerren was one of 11 panelists who interviewed candidates from the Pacific Region of the United States for the prestigious White House Fellows program. This competitive program, established in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, offers opportunities for highly accomplished professionals to work at the highest levels of the federal government. McFerren also served as a regional panelist for the program in March 2023.