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U.S. Rep. John Lewis is featured speaker at Heman Sweatt Symposium, April 25-29

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, (D-Ga.) will be the featured speaker at the 19th annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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AUSTIN, Texas—U.S. Rep. John Lewis, (D-Ga.) will be the featured speaker at the 19th annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis


U.S. Rep. John Lewis

The symposium, April 25-29, will feature a week of activities at The University of Texas at Austin and is free and open to the public. Lewis’ keynote address will be given at 7 p.m., Friday, April 29 in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Auditorium, 2315 Red River St.

Preceding the talk, Lewis will sign his book, “Walking with the Wind,” at 6:15 p.m.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act was a seminal piece of legislation. The law, along with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, represented the crowning legislative achievement of the civil rights movement.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act was the mechanism that allowed hundreds of thousands of African Americans and other minorities to assert their voting rights, particularly in southern states that had formally used poll taxes, literacy tests and property ownership requirements to keep blacks from voting.

“Rep. Lewis is among our last living connections to the civil rights era,” said Terry A. Wilson, chairman of the Sweatt Symposium Steering Committee and associate vice president of the Office of Community and School Relations.

“It was his efforts, as well as those of his colleagues in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress on Racial Equality, the Urban League and the NAACP, who advanced the cause of desegregation and voting rights across the country.

“We are indeed fortunate to have Congressman Lewis as the keynote speaker of the symposium this year, as he will share with us his first-hand experiences in the civil rights movement—including his involvement in the March from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., across the Edmund-Pettis Bridge that became known as “Bloody Sunday” and led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”

In addition to Lewis, the symposium features several speakers and a panel discussion.

“It is our hope that students and others from the greater Austin community walk away with a better understanding of the sacrifices that were made to extend voting rights to all Americans and hopefully to inspire individuals to become active participants by voting in local and national elections,” said Wilson.

Symposium events include:

  • “The Voting Rights Act, the Cold War and the Struggle for Democracy” featuring Jonathan Rosenberg, assistant professor of history at Hunter College ofthe City University of New York—6-8 p.m., April 25, LBJ Library and Museum, 8th floor atrium.
  • “Pop Culture and the Vote” featuring Jehmu Greene, president of Rock the Vote—6-8 p.m., April 26, Bass Lecture Hall.
  • “The Voting Process and the Technology of Voting,” a panel discussion featuring  Dana DeBeauvior, Travis County voting clerk; Kenavon Carter, law student at The University of Texas School of Law and president, Thurgood Marshall Legal Society; Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP; Adina Levin, board member with Campaigns for People; and Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project—6-8 p.m., April 27, Bass Lecture Hall.
  • “An Evening with Nick Kotz,” underwritten by the LBJ Library and Museum, featuring Kotz, author and distinguished adjunct professor at the American University School of Communications—6-7 p.m., April 28, LBJ Auditorium.
  • “Keynote Address” featuring U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Georgia’s 5th Congressional District—7-9 p.m., April 29, LBJ Auditorium.

For more information about the symposium events, visit the Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights Web site or call 512-232-4850.

For more information contact: Terry A. Wilson, Office of Community and School Relations, 512-232-4850.