USM commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act

USM commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the University of Southern Mississippi

The Center for Black Studies at The University of Southern Mississippi will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with a community dialogue and panel featuring local civil rights' activists and scholars at the African American Military History Museum on May 2 at 9 a.m. The panel will be followed by a voter registration drive in the historic Mobile/Bouie Neighborhood in Hattiesburg organized by the Black Studies Student Alliance.

Signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the act prohibited racial discrimination in voting and was finally passed after several attempts at peaceful, nonviolent protests were met with violence. The act's passage is seen as the result of the blood, sweat and tears of so many who cleared a path to the American voting booth.

Dr. Cheryl Jenkins, associate director of the Center for Black Studies and associate professor in the School of Mass Communication and Journalism, believes this event will be impactful enough to generate conversations about current voting rights in America.

"Now is a great time to address where we are, especially since we are currently having discussions about voter identification. It does affect a certain group of people, even if it's just 10 people," Jenkins said.

"In that regard, I think it's good to have the dialogue to see where we are and how we can change the problems that are now coming up 50 years later. It's a great opportunity to facilitate change in some way."

The panel discussion includes Peggy Jean Conner, a civil rights' activist, former executive secretary of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and secretary/treasurer of the Hattiesburg Council of Federated Organizations. Joining Conner on the panel will be Clarence Magee, current president of the Forrest County branch of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People and Dr. Marcus Coleman, assistant professor of Communication Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies. Dr. Kevin Greene, assistant professor of Interdisciplinary studies and History, will provide closing remarks. The voter registration drive will begin at 1 p.m. on the corner of 5th and Mobile streets. Volunteers will canvass that area, known as the Mobile/Bouie Neighborhood, for about two hours registering people to vote. They will provide important information to voters about new procedures and recent changes to voting laws.

Jenkins believes this event reaffirms the University's commitment to presenting these types of issues to the community.

"We want to empower and bring knowledge to the community. That's hopefully what we are adding to this event," Jenkins said. "We want people to know we are here and that we care about people exercising their right to vote."

Southern Miss' Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Center for Community and Civic Engagement and the Center for Black Studies Student Alliance partnered to organize this event. For more information about upcoming events in the College of Arts and Letters, of which the Center for Black Studies is a part, visit