September 25, 2012
DALLAS (SMU) — Acclaimed SMU political science professor Dennis Simon discussed “The Politics of Memory and the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement: Reflections from the 50th Anniversary Season” for the fall 2012 Maguire Public Scholar Lecture on Oct. 1.
The free public event was sponsored by the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility and included a Q&A session with Simon, an Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences.
Oct. 1 is significant because on that day in 1962, James Meredith became the first African American student admitted to the University of Mississippi — but only after a Supreme Court ruling and armed troops helped him secure that right. Earlier, Mississippi’s then-Gov. Ross Barnett, tried to stop him from entering, and a violent mob’s attempt to keep Meredith out of Ole Miss left two dead and many others wounded. The emotional scars of that turmoil remain to this day.
“We are in the midst of a 50th anniversary season in which we commemorate a number of landmark events in the civil rights movement,” says Simon. In addition to recalling Meredith’s brave and ground-breaking achievement, Simon also will look back to the introduction of landmark civil rights legislation; Gov. George Wallace’s defiant “segregation now, segregation forever” proclamation at the University of Alabama; the assassination of NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers; the March on Washington; Freedom Summer, Bloody Sunday and the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
“The talk will highlight the major legacies of the Civil Rights Movement and consider the role of race and the memory of the movement in contemporary American politics,” says Simon, who for five years has helped lead SMU’s students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the community, on an annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage is sponsored by the Office of the Chaplain and began in 2005.
"As we look back today, we can more accurately assess the human cost of societal change,” says Maguire Ethics Center Director Rita Kirk. “If America is more than an ideal, we must consistently ask ourselves who we are as a nation and what we have yet to do to reach our promise.”
This lecture will kick off a series of campuswide events “that look back at that era both with historic accuracy and forward vision,” Kirk says. “We welcome the discussion.”
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