UofM’s Hooks Institute and Leadership Fayette to Host Robert Hamburger, Author of the Fayette County Civil Rights Movement Book 'Our Portion of Hell'

Feb. 2, 2023 — The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change and Leadership Fayette will host a book signing with Robert Hamburger, author of "Our Portion of Hell: Fayette County, Tennessee: An Oral History of the Struggle for Civil Rights" at 2 p.m. on Feb. 25 at the Fayette County Public Schools Central Administration Building (10425 Hwy 76, S. Somerville, TN, 38068).

In addition to the book signing, Hamburger and Daphene McFerren, Hooks Institute executive director and daughter of Fayette County Civil Rights Activists John and Viola McFerren, will speak at the event. Activists from the Fayette County Civil Rights Movement will also attend. "Our Portion of Hell" will be available for purchase at the event. 

The Hooks Institute’s website, "Tent City: The Story of Civil Rights in Fayette County, Tennessee" chronicles the history of this movement and is cited and referred to by historians, educators and others in describing the origins and seminal moments of this movement. The website can be found at memphis.edu/tentcity.

A pictorial history of the preparation for and a demonstration in March 1965 by Fayette County activists was captured by internationally renowned photographer Art Shay in 13 photographs on display at Memphis International Airport, which is cohosting the exhibit with the Hooks Institute. The photographs are displayed in the Departing Flights Terminal, across from the TSA office, at the Memphis International Airport until October 2023. The public can view the exhibit without purchasing a ticket or going through the TSA security checkpoints.

About Our Portion of Hell: Fayette County, Tennessee: An Oral History of the Struggle for Civil Rights

Recently released by the University of Mississippi Press for its second edition, "Our Portion of Hell: Fayette County, Tennessee: An Oral History of the Struggle for Civil Rights" offers an unrivalled account of how the rural Black community of Fayette County, Tennessee, drew together to combat the immense forces aligned against them in the late 1950s-1970s. Author Robert Hamburger first visited Fayette County as part of a student civil rights project in 1965 and, in 1971, set out to document the history of the grassroots movement there.

About Robert Hamburger

Robert Hamburger is the author of six books ranging from oral history, personal journalism, biography and travel memoir to fiction. He produced and conducted interviews for “Freedom’s Front Line: Fayette County, Tennessee,” a thirty-minute film about the civil rights movement that was broadcast on WKNO, the western Tennessee PBS station. He is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Humanities research awards; three Fulbright teaching fellowships (France, New Delhi, and Kolkata); three residencies at MacDowell artists’ colony; and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Award.

About Daphene McFerren

Daphene R. McFerren is the executive director of the Hooks Institute and is responsible for the implementation of programs that further the Institute’s mission of teaching, studying and promoting civil rights and social change. Prior to joining the Hooks Institute, McFerren practiced law for 17 years in Washington, D.C., first in private practice, then as senior counsel in the Office of General Counsel for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and finally with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). At the DOJ, McFerren was a trial attorney with the Federal Programs Branch, representing the federal government in courts throughout the United States. In 2001, she became counsel to United States Attorney General Janet Reno. She concluded her tenure with the Department of Justice as an Assistant United States Attorney with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

About the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change

The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute implements its mission of teaching, studying and promoting civil rights and social change through research, education and direct intervention programs. Institute programs include community outreach; funding faculty research initiatives on community issues; implementing community service projects; hosting conferences, symposia and lectures; and promoting local and national scholarship on civil and human rights. The Hooks Institute is an interdisciplinary center at the University of Memphis. Contributed revenue for the Hooks Institute, including funding from individuals, corporations and foundations, is administered through the University of Memphis Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization.