Knoxville, TN - A series of local events this year – ranging from films to nationally-known speakers to commemorative community marches – have celebrated the signing of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 on its 50th anniversary.

On Wednesday, Dec. 10, a final “Unfinished Business: Then, Now and Going Forward” event will recap what’s been learned in the past year and invite Knoxvillians to look ahead for ways to continue to embrace inclusion and diversity.

Doors open for the “Unfinished Business” celebration at 5 p.m. (with the program starting at 5:30 p.m.) on Dec. 10 at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, 1927 Dandridge Ave. It coincides with the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. receiving the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10, 1964, and the Beck Center celebration will include a video of Dr. King’s acceptance speech at the University of Oslo.

Also scheduled at the Dec. 10 celebration: a video entitled “If Not Us?” by Northwest Middle School students and a keynote address by University of Tennessee Emeritus Professor Dr. John O. Hodges, whose work in the Department of Religious Studies led to recognition by the UT National Alumni Association.

Hodges earned the Lorayne Lester Award for distinguished service to the university. He’s published articles in such journals as The CLA Journal, The Langston Hughes Review, Soundings, and The Southern Quarterly. His book, “Delta Fragments: The Recollections of a Sharecropper's Son,” details his experiences as a youth growing up in the Mississippi Delta during the 1950s and 1960s.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission and the Beck Cultural Exchange Center are partnering with the City of Knoxville on the Dec. 10 celebration.

The Beck Center event wraps up the City’s year-long celebration, but it’s by no means a stopping point. Rather, event organizers see it as a launching point for continuing community dialogue.

“The ‘Unfinished Business’ series has been important, because it gave us the opportunity to objectively assess our progress toward civil-rights equality but also take stock of what still remains to be done,” said Mayor Madeline Rogero.

The “Unfinished Business” series started with a February brown-bag forum on voting and districting. Other events included the April “Bittersweet Harvest” art exhibit; a special April 5 screening of the “Cesar Chavez” film and program; an April 11 Fair Housing conference; a June 19 “mass meeting” with the Rev. C.T. Vivian; July 2 and Oct. 18 commemorative civil-rights marches; a Sept. 5 “Say It Loud!” celebration of Knoxville’s Freedom Summer through historic film, music and art; and an Oct. 19 ecumenical worship service.

Other speakers included Todd Purdum, a former New York Times writer who authored a history on the Civil Rights Act’s passage; Bill Baxley and Doug Jones, who successfully prosecuted three former Klansmen for the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four girls; and Rabbi Israel Dresner and Dorie Ladner, freedom riders and legendary civil-rights movement leaders.

For more information about the City of Knoxville’s Civil Rights Act commemoration, see

# # #