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Informed by Our Past: Lawyering for Racial Justice in Georgia

Monday, October 24, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kristyn Girardeau
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 2 CLE credits, including 1 Professionalism hour




Atlanta Bar Association 
The Center for Access to Justice – GSU College of Law
Black Law Students Association – GSU College of Law
Atlanta Music Festival –


Unknown to most Atlantans, one hundred and ten years ago, the city suffered through violent race riots that left dozens dead.  This CLE was inspired by historical research into the causes of those riots and the efforts of lawyers and African American clergy to address racial justice in the aftermath of that violence.  The similarities of the issues—legal, political, economic, and cultural—presented to the community at that time and those we confront today are striking.  But there are, of course, differences.  The first part of this seminar will address the legal and cultural response to the 1906 riots.  The second hour will focus on contemporary issues of racial justice.  The panel will be asked to comment on the similarities and differences between racial justice issues of the past and present. Stephen Bright will discuss his victory before the United States Supreme Court in Foster v. Chatman, racial discrimination in jury selection as well as other current topics involving criminal defense and race discrimination.  R. Gary Spencer will address the issues raised by the representation of groups like "Black Lives Matter."  Representative Stacey Abrams will address voting rights and the recent litigation involving voter registration errors and other voter suppression strategies.

The seminar is one of a series of cultural and educational events presented by the Atlanta Music Festival during the week of November 14-18, 2016.  The first Atlanta Music Festival (then called the Atlanta Colored Music Festival) occurred in 1910 and was one of the cultural responses to the riots that the African American members of First Congregational Church of Atlanta mounted under the leadership of their pastor, the Rev. Henry Hugh Proctor.  The concert series brought hundreds of black and white Atlantans together to hear performances of internationally renowned black classical musicians.  The Atlanta Music Festival revives that tradition and culminates this year on November 18th with a Gala concert featuring opera stars Jessye Norman and Timothy Miller, author Taylor Branch, Morehouse and Spelman Glee Clubs, the Meridian Chorale and the Vega String Quartet. (For tickets, go to   It is the story of these early attempts at racial reconciliation that inspired the seminar "Informed By Our Past: Lawyering for Racial Justice in Atlanta."





4:00 – 4:05 PM  Welcome and Program Overview 
Professor Natsu Saito, Georgia State University College of Law

4:05 – 4:50 PM  "Informed By Our Past"
• Dr. Dwight Andrews, Associate Professor of Music at Emory University and Senior Pastor at First Congregational Church 
• Charles Johnson, Holland & Knight


This presentation will focus on the history of lawyering for racial justice in Atlanta  beginning with Reconstruction, continuing through the period of the 1906 race riots and ending with the work of prominent African American lawyer A.T. Walden.

4:50-5:00 PM  BREAK

5:00-6:00 PM Lawyering for Racial Justice in Georgia – Contemporary Issues of Race
Criminal Justice and Voting Rights 

• Moderator: Charles Johnson, Holland & Knight
• Stephen Bright, Southern Center for Human Rights
• Representative Stacey Abrams, Georgia House of Representatives Minority Leader  
• Gary Spencer, R. Gary Spencer, P.C.

6:00-7:00 PM Reception
Drinks and light hors d’ouevres        

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