Former U.S. Attorney General to Discuss Civil Rights Movement and Desegregation Decision at UMass

AMHERST, Mass. - Nicholas Katzenbach, who served as U.S. attorney general under President Lyndon B. Johnson, will offer his perspectives on Brown v. Board of Education and the civil rights movement during a visit next week to the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Katzenbach’s appearance is part of the inaugural Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series and a semester-long program of events organized by the UMass Amherst history department to mark the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision that outlawed racial segregation in schools.

The former attorney general will participate in a panel discussion on “The Government and the Movement” on Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m. in 106 Thompson Hall. Joining Katzenbach will be John Bracey and Michael Thelwell, professors in the department of Afro-American studies and former activists with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, formed in 1960 by black college students to overturn segregation in the South.

Katzenbach will present the second Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture on Thursday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Mahar Auditorium, speaking on “Brown and the Civil Rights Movement: A View from Washington.” He will be introduced by Kenneth Feinberg.

A graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, Katzenbach served in the Office of General Counsel for the U.S. Air Force from 1950-52 before teaching law at Yale and the University of Chicago. He joined the U.S. Department of Justice in 1961 and rose to deputy attorney general under Robert F. Kennedy. He directed the Justice Department’s field operations in the struggle to desegregate the University of Mississippi in 1962 and the University of Alabama the following year. Instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Katzenbach also drafted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and worked with Congress to ensure its passage. He resigned in 1966, citing continuing clashes with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover over the unauthorized wiretapping of civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr. Later that year, President Johnson appointed Katzenbach to be undersecretary of state. Johnson also named him to a three-member commission charged with reviewing Central Intelligence Agency activities. When Johnson left office in 1969, Katzenbach served briefly as a corporate lawyer for IBM before returning to private law practice in Princeton, N.J.

The Feinberg lecture series is made possible by the generosity of alumnus Kenneth Feinberg, his family and friends. Feinberg is the special master administering the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, and a prominent Washington, D.C. lawyer who grew up in Brockton. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history from UMass Amherst in 1967.

For information, contact Carl H. Nightingale at 413/545-5875 or carl@history.umass.edu.

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