Civil rights legend, voting rights panel highlight MTSU undergrad symposium Oct. 28-29

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Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr.

Civil rights legend Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr. will give the keynote address for MTSU's 24th annual Social Science Symposium set for Wednesday, Oct. 28, and Thursday, Oct. 29, in the James Union Building.

With a theme of "Voting Rights 1965-2015: Commemorating 50 Years," this year's symposium will celebrate the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act while looking at the work that still needs to be done, organizers said.

A voting rights panel discussion will be held from 12:40-2 p.m. Wednesday in the Tennessee Room in the James Union Building. Lafayette, co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a veteran of the Freedom Rides and Selma movement, will speak from 1-2:35 p.m. Thursday in the Tennessee Room.


All events are free and open to the public. A searchable campus parking map is available at Off-campus visitors attending events should obtain a special one-day permit from MTSU's Office of Parking and Transportation at

The symposium has been held every year since 1991 as a way to provide MTSU students a forum for presenting their research. Student paper sessions will be held from 8 a.m. until noon both days in the Hazlewood Room and Dining Room C.


Wednesday's panel discussion will be moderated by Dr. Sekou Franklin, associate professor of political science, and includes Dr. Ernest "Rip" Patton, civil rights activist with the Nashville sit-in movement, Freedom Rides and the Operation W.A.V.E. initiative; Joshua Crutchfield, Black Lives Matter of Nashville; attorney Elizabeth McClellan, O'Neal v. Goins case (voter rights for former felons); Justin Jones, founder of the Nashville Student Organizing Committee, and the Nashville Student Organizing Committee v. Hargett case (challenging the state voter ID law).

Following the panel, the movie "Selma" will be shown, followed by a Q&A session moderated by Dr. Louis Woods, associate professor of African-American history at MTSU.

Lafayette, 75, has been a civil rights movement activist, minister, educator, lecturer and is an authority on the strategy on nonviolent social change. You can listen to his recent interview on the "MTSU on the Record" radio program at

Among the many leadership positions held during more than a half-century of service, Lafayette is former president of the American Baptist College of ABT Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee and former Scholar in Residence at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta.

In receiving the National Civil Rights Museum's National Freedom Award for 2012, the following statement was made about Lafayette: "He never stopped believing in the future even when he was arrested with other riders in Jackson, Mississippi, and jailed in Parchman State Prison Farm in 1961."

Lafayette is author of the newly published "In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma." Georgia Congressman and fellow civil rights legend John Lewis, in his foreword to the book, states, "A powerful history of struggle, commitment, and hope. No one, but no one, who lived through the creation and development of the movement for voting rights in Selma is better prepared to tell this story than Bernard Lafayette himself."

Since 2006, Lafayette has served as Distinguished Senior Scholar in Residence at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. He is chairman of the board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

His visit follows the September visit by fellow civil rights icons and Freedom Rides veterans James Lawson and C.T. Vivian for MTSU's Constitution Day activities that also commemorated the Voting Rights Act anniversary.

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