A Legacy Pioneer Speaks
Theodore M. Shaw, the inaugural Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights at UNC-Chapel Hill, delivered this year's J. Alston Atkins Memorial Lecture in Constitutional Law at WSSU in October. The lecture was sponsored by the law firm of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP.
The lecture was preceded by a roundtable discussion on "Quality Education as a Constitutional Right" and feature David Dennis, director of the Southern Initiative of the Algebra Project, Dr. Beverly Emory, superintendent of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System, and Dr. Denise Pearson, senior associate dean and professor of education at WSSU.
"This year's lecture and symposium highlighted the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Freedom Summer, two pivotal events that fundamentally changed the contours of American democracy," said Dr. Corey D. B. Walker, dean of the College of Arts, Science, Business and Education and the John W. and Anna Hodgin Hanes Professor of the Humanities at WSSU. "It was an honor to host Ted Shaw and David Dennis as part of this year's program. As a key architect in recent civil rights litigation, Ted Shaw has worked tirelessly to advance the cause of equity and inclusion in society. David Dennis is a longtime organizer and activist for human dignity stemming from his days as a Freedom Rider and organizer in Mississippi in the 1960s to his ongoing work as a lawyer and educator. Both of these individuals are intimately connected with the events of fifty years ago and the lasting impact they have had on our society and world."
Shaw was named the second director of the Center for Civil Rights at UNC-Chapel Hill in July of this year, a position first held by the late Julius Chambers. Previously, Shaw served as director-counsel and president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) from 2004 until 2008. He joined the LDF in 1982 and served as an attorney there for 23 years. He also has been a professor at Columbia University Law School, where he earned his law degree, and he started his career as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Atkins Memorial Lecture in Constitutional Law is named in honor of J. Alston (Jack) Atkins, the son of WSSU founder Simon Green Atkins and a 1922 honor graduate of Yale Law School. A prominent civil rights attorney and advocate, Atkins filed a series of lawsuit to eliminate the racially segregated school system in Forsyth County. While he did not win the cases, they became the catalyst for a lawsuit, which ultimately did lead to the desegregation of the local schools. In 1970, he filed a suit that was settled 15 years later and paved the way for more substantial support of the historically Black member institutions of the University of North Carolina system.