Jenner & Block

Firm Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Movement in America

On June 11, 1963, President John Kennedy gave a landmark speech that many consider a watershed moment in the history of the civil rights movement in the United States, addressing the fight over court-ordered integration of the University of Alabama. In the summer of 2013, diversity-themed events across the firm recognized and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the movement.

On June 4, 2013, the New York members of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee and its Associate Board hosted a presentation by the former head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Columbia Law Professor Ted Shaw. Speaking to an audience of approximately 40 people, including the firm’s summer associates, Professor Shaw discussed major civil rights cases considered during the Supreme Court’s 2012 term, including Fisher v. University of Texas (affirmative action), Shelby County (voting rights) and Windsor and Perry (same-sex marriage). He also commented on the handling of civil rights issues, generally, by the Obama administration.

One summer associate commented, “I did not expect a law firm – even one with a reputation for strong pro bono work – to create that kind of space or opportunity to discuss social change with one of the leading advocates of our time.”

On June 13, 2013, approximately 120 attorneys, summer associates, diversity scholars and staff gathered in Chicago to hear civil rights icon Ruby Bridges, the keynote speaker at the firm’s 12th Annual Diversity Dinner. As a 6-year-old first-grader in 1960, Ms. Bridges was the first black child to attend a previously all-white elementary school in her New Orleans neighborhood, ending segregation in the city’s public schools.

In a talk-show-host style interview setting with questions posed by Partner Reginald J. Hill, Ms. Bridges described her first days at her new grammar school, where, escorted by federal marshals, she passed crowds of screaming white people who did not want her to be there.

Calling the Diversity Dinner “one of my favorite events of the summer,” one summer associate noted the event “exemplifies what makes Jenner & Block such a special firm … Ruby Bridges was an incredible speaker and hearing her story in an intimate, conversational setting was extremely moving.”

On July 24, 2013, Partner Jessica Ring Amunson led a lunchtime discussion for summer associates in the D.C. office, focusing on the Supreme Court’s recent Shelby County decision and the future of the Voting Rights Act. Jessie, who has worked on numerous election law and redistricting cases, was co-author of an amicus brief submitted by the firm, on behalf of the NYU School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, in Shelby County.

Diversity Dinner guest speaker Ruby Bridges, center, meets the firm's 2013 scholars; from left: Kara Ingelhart, Bide Akande, Kara Trowell and Mikael Rojas.

Guest speaker Ruby Bridges talks with Partner Reggie Hill

Diversity scholar Kara Trowell, left, and Associate Brian Dougherty