ORLANDO, Fla. – Lani Guinier, a civil rights attorney and the first tenured black woman professor at Harvard Law School, will serve as the inaugural guest speaker of the Virgil D. Hawkins Lecture Series at Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law, Wednesday, October 8, 2008 at 5:30 p.m. The lecture will take place in Room 240 of the College of Law, 201 Beggs Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32801. The event is open to the public.
Guinier drew public attention in 1993 when she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to direct the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, only to have her name withdrawn without a confirmation hearing. She turned that event into a personal memoir, Lift Every Voice: Turning a Civil Rights Setback into a New Vision of Social Justice. Guinier will sign copies of Lift Every Voice as well as other books she has authored at 4:30 p.m.
The recipient of numerous awards for her civil rights record, Guinier was selected as the first guest speaker of the lecture series named in honor of civil rights activist Virgil D. Hawkins. In 1949, Hawkins applied to the University of Florida (UF) law school but was denied entry because of his race. He was urged to attend law school outside Florida but refused and sued the state, which responded by establishing a law school at FAMU. While he was admitted to FAMU’s law school, Hawkins continued his fight for acceptance at the University of Florida. Although he was unsuccessful, Hawkins’ long-fought battle led to the ultimate desegregation of the University of Florida. Hawkins received his law degree from the New England College of Law more than 20 years after applying to UF.
“In many ways, Professor Lani Guinier embodies the tenacious spirit that defined the character of the late Mr. Virgil Hawkins,” said LeRoy Pernell, dean of the FAMU College of Law. “We are honored to have her address the law school as we acknowledge the man to whom we owe so much.”
Several of Hawkins’ relatives, who reside in the Central Florida area, will attend the event and be recognized.
The FAMU College of Law was founded in 1949 on the main campus in Tallahassee. After graduating 57 lawyers, the law school was closed by the state of Florida in 1968. The Florida Legislature voted to reopen the law school in 2000 and Orlando was selected as the location. The reestablished FAMU College of Law opened its doors in 2002 and is now housed in a state-of-the-art facility in downtown Orlando’s Parramore neighborhood.
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