University of Pittsburgh
May 22, 2014

Pitt-Hosted Conference to Revisit Civil Rights Act

Nationally prominent scholars, local leaders to evaluate social equity and civil rights 50 years later at conference of the National Academy of Public Administration
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. to give keynote speech

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—Fifty years after the passage of the most sweeping reforms to civil rights laws in U.S. history, is America a more socially equitable place?

That question will take center stage when the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs hosts the National Academy of Public Administration's 13th annual Social Equity Leadership Conference May 28-30, 2014. The conference theme is "The 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Assessing Social Equity and Civil Rights in the Light of Growing Income Inequality."

Marking the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the conference will draw scholars, educators, and social workers from across the United States for panel discussions on a range of social equity and governance topics relating to the legacy of the 1964 legislation and current-day struggles. All conference events will be held at Pitt’s University Club, 123 University Pl., Oakland.

The Social Equity Leadership Conference will begin at 1 p.m. May 28 with introductory remarks from University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, followed by the opening plenary session, “What Role Cities, Universities, and Media Play in Achieving Social Equity: Reflections from Pittsburgh,” moderated by Daria Crawley of Robert Morris University and featuring John Keeler, dean of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs; Dan Simpson, former U.S. ambassador and associate editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; and City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a 2011 graduate of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Also of significant local interest, at 9:30 a.m. May 29, conference co-chair and Pitt professor emeritus of public and international affairs Leon Haley, along with former Pittsburgh City Council Member Sala Udin, will moderate “Pittsburgh’s Role (Past, Present, and Future) in Pursuit of Civil Rights,” a panel addressing the accomplishments and shortcomings of the civil rights movement in Pittsburgh as well as assessing the movement’s current status. Along with Haley and Udin, the panel will include Morton Coleman, professor emeritus in Pitt’s School of Social Work and director emeritus of the University’s Institute of Politics, and Marisa Bartley, business development officer of Citizens Financial Group.

E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post political columnist and a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, will present a speech titled “Is Our Political System Making Inequality Worse?” at 3:45 p.m. May 29 in Ballroom B of the University Club with a reception to follow. The lecture is free and open to the public. Other keynote speeches will be given by Lia Epperson, associate professor of law and director of the Doctor of Juridical Science Program at American University’s Washington College of Law, and Ethel Williams, director of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s School of Public Administration.

“The conference addresses a wide variety of critical issues that continue to foster disparities between us and to limit access to large groups of Americans to our political, economic, and social institutions,” said conference co-chair David Miller, professor of public and international affairs and director of the Center for Metropolitan Studies in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin and ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools and the workplace. President John F. Kennedy called for a sweeping civil rights bill in June 1963 following protests by African American groups of inequality and segregation, most notably campaigns against segregation in Birmingham, Ala., championed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The bill was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964.

The conference’s panel discussions cover topics ranging from the unfinished work of the 1964 law and the new work of a 2014 civil rights act to the potential of the Affordable Care Act to create equal access to health care. Individual panel sessions will focus on such varied and relevant topics as “Immigrants and the City: Initiatives to Close the Equity Gap,” “The American Dream 50 Years Later,” “The State of Education in America,” “The Economics of Life on the Streets,” “Economic History of Disenfranchisement,” and “The 74%: Exploring the Lives of Women in Nonprofit Organizations.”

Pitt faculty and doctoral students from across the University will lead and participate in panel presentations, with participants from the Center for Health Equity in the Graduate School of Public Health, the Center for Urban Education in the School of Education, the Philanthropy Forum in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, the Institute of Politics, and the School of Social Work, among others.

“We hope that our panel discussions and plenary sessions will inspire attendees with new ideas and enthusiasm, and that together, we can continue the great work that began 50 years ago to advance social equity through public administration,” explained conference co-chair, Leon Haley, professor emeritus in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Conference registration is open to the public and costs $150 for professionals, $50 for graduate students, and $35 for undergraduate students. Register at

To view the full schedule of events and more information, visit the conference website.

National Academy of Public Administration
The National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan organization established in 1967 to assist government leaders in building more effective, efficient, accountable, and transparent organizations. Chartered by Congress to provide nonpartisan expert advice, the academy's unique feature is its nearly 750 Fellows—including former cabinet officers, members of Congress, governors, mayors, and state legislators, as well as prominent scholars, business executives, and public administrators. The academy helps the federal government address its critical management challenges through in-depth studies and analyses, advisory services and technical assistance, Congressional testimony, forums and conferences, and online stakeholder engagement. Under contracts with government agencies, some of which are directed by Congress as well as grants from private foundations, the National Academy of Public Administration provides insights on key public management issues as well as advisory services to government agencies.

Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
The University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs is a professional school with a diverse, cosmopolitan community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Believing in our ability to make the world a better place, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs hones the passions of its students into purposeful direction and action. As part of the University of Pittsburgh, the school is a leader in education, a pioneer in research, and a partner in regional development—as well as one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the United States. Throughout its 50-year history, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs has created a legacy that inspires graduates to make public institutions better, create a higher quality of government, and promote social responsibility throughout the world.