The North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities (NC CRED), the Center for Death Penalty Litigation (CDPL), and the North Carolina Racial Equity Network (NC REN) held a virtual symposium entitled Reckoning with Racial Terror: Slavery, the Death Penalty, and Mass Incarceration on February 5, 2021 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
Racial terror has been a constant in American life. Although its form is ever-shifting, violence against Black people has always been the primary tool to enforce white supremacy. This symposium explored the death penalty and mass incarceration as two contemporary manifestations of the legacy of racial terror that began in slavery.
First, a panel of historians (Timothy Lovelace, Seth Kotch, and Amanda Hughett) described the historical origins of these modern forms of brutality.
Second, a panel of activists and advocates (Dawn Blagrove, Will Elmore, and Henderson Hill) discussed the ways racial violence is wielded today and the importance of exposing its historical roots.
Finally, keynote speaker James Ferguson offered closing thoughts on how we reckon with racial terror, in all its forms, to end its grip on our nation.
Panel 1: History of Racial Terror
Moderated by Elizabeth Hambourger
Senior Attorney & Public Information Liaison at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation
H. Timothy Lovelace, Jr.
John Hope Franklin Research Scholar Professor of Law at Duke University Law School
Associate Professor, Department of American Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, Director of the Southern Oral History Program, and author of Lethal State
Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield and Affiliated Researcher at SUNY-Buffalo’s Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy
Panel 2: Legacy of Racial Terror
Moderated by Irving L. Joyner
Professor of Law at NCCU
Executive Director of Emancipate NC
Senior Counsel at ACLU Capital Punishment Project
William “Mecca” Elmore
Mentor & Volunteer Outreach Coordinator for Reintegration Support Network (RSN) and Author of Prison From the Inside Out
Keynote Speaker: James E. Ferguson, II
James E. Ferguson, II, is a founding partner of the firm Ferguson, Stein, Chambers, Gresham and Sumter, P.A. and has served as President of the firm since 1984.
Not only has Mr. Ferguson distinguished himself as a trial lawyer, he has achieved distinction as a teacher of trial skills and a leader of the profession. He has held teaching positions at Harvard Law School and North Carolina Central Law School. He served as a Scholar in Residence at Santa Clara Law School and was recognized as an Honorary Fellow by the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, having been inducted in 1987.
Mr. Ferguson co-founded South Africa’s first Trial Advocacy Program, offering the program to black and white lawyers, even during the apartheid era.
In the civil arena, Mr. Ferguson has served as the Chair of the Charlotte Community Building Initiative and as a member of the North Carolina Commission on Alternatives to Incarceration. He served for more than 15 years as General Counsel and member of the National Executive Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union.