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Chicago Symposium on Lawyers in the Civil Rights Movement

Photo of Clarence Jones, Clayborne Carson, and Len Rubinowitz
Oct 28 2014

October 31, Northwestern University

King Institute Director Clayborne Carson and Scholar Writer in Residence Clarence Jones participated in the Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy's 8th Annual Symposium, which this year explored the theme "Martin Luther King's Lawyers: From Montgomery to the March on Washington to Memphis." 

In his remarks at the opening session of the symposium, Carson lauded the work of lawyers who aided the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. But he contrasted the sixty highly skilled lawyers who defended King with the lack of sufficient lawyers in some areas of the Deep South. He added that many grassroots activists wanted to use civil disobedience to "disrupt the system." Some were reluctant to become dependent on lawyers, preferring the "jail-no bail strategy."

During the final session of the symposium, Carson conducted an on-stage interview of Jones about his role as King's legal advisor. Jones recounted how he was recruited by King in 1960 to help the legal team that convinced an all-white Alabama jury to acquit him on perjury charges. The interview traced Jones's involvement in crucial events, including King's jailing during the 1963 Birmingham campaign and his subsequent "I have a dream" speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Thorne Auditorium.

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Clayborne Carson