The 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 will be commemorated by Knoxville officials and other local leaders this week.
A panel discussion about "Voting, Voting Statistics and Districting" begins at noon Friday in the Small Assembly Room of the City County Building on Main Street. The discussion is free and open to the public and kicks off a series of events throughout 2014, according to a city announcement.
The panel will discuss the impact Titles I and VIII of the Civil Rights Act had on local politics. The law barred burdensome voter registration requirements and required the compilation of registration and voting data.
"It opened up things for many people especially in terms of voting areas where African-Americans had been denied even the right to vote," said former Daniel Brown, a city councilman and former Knoxville mayor.
"I think here locally, African-Americans have been voting here for quite some time, but there were certain areas of certain counties in certain states where that was not the case."
Brown will sit on the panel along with moderator Robert Booker, a former Tennessee state representative and city councilman and current executive director of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center.
Other panelists include state Rep. Joe Armstrong, Knox County Election Commission Chairman Chris Hagerty and Bill Lyons, the city's chief policy officer and former political science professor at the University of Tennessee.
Brown said the city saw a several-decade gap between elected black officials that ended in 1969.
"I'm sure the Voting Rights Act of '64 had a direct effect on that," Brown said.