Remembering: International Struggle for Civil and Human Rights

Civil Rights SummitOct 28 - 30, 2015
Kennesaw State University
The College of Continuing and Professional Education
3333 Busbee Drive, Kennesaw, GA 30144

The fifty-year anniversaries of major events of the American civil rights movement provide occasion for reflection on milestone events in the American civil rights movement. We take pause to recall the significance of Brown v. Board of Education, the Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, and the major civil rights legislative achievements. Various commemorative events are taking shape across the United States, from the unveiling of the plaque of the Birmingham church bombing, an event that took the lives of four African American girls, to the re-enactment of the March on Washington. The multiple meanings of universal themes of liberty, equality, justice, fairness, and equal opportunity have characterized an era of sacrifice, mourning, and guarded optimism that marked the African American fight for freedom.

However, the struggle for civil and human rights was not solely an African American struggle, nor did it occur solely within the borders of the United States. As Kevin Gaines, Gerald Horne, Thomas Borstelmann, Mary Dudziak, Aza Layton and many others have discussed, the civil rights movement shaped and was shaped by an international conversation on human rights, self-determination, and freedom. Mexican American Cesar Chavez rallied agriculture workers in the National Farm Workers Union to underscore economic issues that impacted both sides of the US-Mexico border. SNCC, the Black Panther Party, CORE, and other organizations developed visions of what was possible in dialogue with a host of international influences in African and Asian independence movements. Throughout Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean, people who were victims of violent repression, social isolation, and political disenfranchisement took up their own struggles for liberation using the narrative, rhetoric, and strategy of the American civil rights movement, but also developing and improvising their own strategies.

The commemoration of the American civil rights movement reminds us of all those epic struggles and brings back memories of solidarity across racial, geographical, generational, social, and cultural divides that furthered the cause of liberty and human dignity around the world. We must reflect on the connections and rifts between the American experience and the African, Latin American and Caribbean, Middle Eastern, European and Asian experiences and many of the other international dimensions of civil and human rights’ struggles, characterized by the travels, the dialogues, and the transfer of ideas across borders, cultures, religions and other barriers, historically and contemporarily.

Kennesaw State University’s Center for African and African Diaspora Studies invites scholars, artists, activists, and practitioners to participate in a three-day summit in Kennesaw (an Atlanta suburb) on October 28-30, 2015. The summit is designed as a multi-disciplinary platform to remember, reflect, celebrate and interrogate historical and contemporary civil and human rights issues that are both national and transnational. It incorporates discussions in all formats – visual and performance arts, spoken word, fine arts installation, panel and roundtable discussions, and open forum discussions.