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The Howard Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of “Tent City,” one of the earliest right-to-vote campaigns in the rural South, with a display of photos at the Bijou Theatre Gallery now through Sunday, March 15, and a Tent City celebration and voting rights symposium on March 31 and April 1.

The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965 made an indelible imprint on the American conscience, leading ultimately to the passage of the Voting Rights Act later that year. But little is known an earlier heroic struggle for voting rights in the rural South that began in Fayette and Haywood Counties, Tennessee in 1959. This conference will celebrate and tell the story of that historic landmark event.

The celebration of Tent City provides a powerful occasion to educate the public about the history, status and impact of voting rights on American politics and society. The symposium moves from the celebration of Tent City, its historical context, significance and legacy to a broader discussion of the history of voting rights, protecting the right to vote, current challenges and voter equity concerns. In addition, the symposium will address increasing citizen participation in the electoral process through civic education and voting reforms, and it will conclude with a global perspective on democracy.

The symposium brings together those who lived the story, leading scholars, public figures and commentators to educate about the long shadow it has cast in our political and social history.

For more information, visit the Baker Center Web site.