Presented by the First Amendment Center as part of The Seigenthaler Series
Monday, October 15
6 – 8 p.m.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m
Lecture begins at 6 p.m
Reception follows at 7 p.m.
Vanderbilt University | John Seigenthaler Center
1207 18th Avenue South, Nashville, TN
Featuring: Marc Perrusquia, Author of “A Spy in Canaan: How the FBI Used a Famous Photographer to Infiltrate the Civil Rights Movement” and Mandy Strickland Floyd, ACLU co-counsel on ongoing Memphis police surveillance case
Perrusquia’s “A Spy In Canaan” explores the depth of political surveillance in Memphis in the 1960s and 70s by the FBI and the Memphis Police Department. The book puts a human face on the story by telling it through Ernest Withers, the famous rights photographer who secretly doubled as an FBI informant. The book is part reporter’s discovery, telling how Perrusquia exposed Withers’ secret through a newspaper investigation. But more centrally it tells the story of First Amendment abuses by the government at it collected wide swaths of personal and political data on law-abiding activists, harassing and disrupting the careers of some. A former Commercial Appeal journalist, Perrusquia now heads the Institute of Public Service Reporting at the University of Memphis. (Books will be available for purchase and signing)
The issue of political surveillance remains relevant today in Memphis, where the ACLU is suing the Memphis Police Department for alleged First Amendment violations in its surveillance of Black Lives Matters activists and others. Mandy Floyd, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, will discuss the ACLU’s current case in Memphis.