The University of Mississippi School of Law is celebrating 50 years of diversity with its Recollections and Reflections conference starting Thursday. The event is set to honor both past and more recent African-American graduates of the law school.
Professor and event chair Donna Raye Davis said believes this was the right time to have this celebration.
“This is the 50th year after our first African-American student graduated from the law school,” she said. “It seemed like a good time to look back and reflect on our students’ experiences, to honor our early graduates and to learn more from our recent ones.”
The law school’s first African-American graduate graduated in 1967. Since then, nearly 490 African-Americans have graduated from it.
Programming includes panels featuring graduates from law school classes dating back to the 1970s sharing their experiences. The earliest graduates will recollect their memories of attending law school during desegregation and how that has affected their lives.
While some of Thursday’s events required registration, Friday’s panels are open to the public.
One panel will consist of five people who graduated within five years of integration, and the other will consist of graduates from the past five decades. Both panels will feature the graduates sharing experiences from law school as well as their professional careers.
Davis said the panel discussions will help people learn a lot about themselves.
“This celebration is vitally important to the law school,” Davis said. “It is a time for us to recognize the dedication and achievements of our graduates and to acknowledge the amazing work they have done to make Mississippi a better place.”
Many law students see this week as an important event not only for the law school but also for the entire university.
Third-year law student Chelsea Orland said she feels it’s an extremely important event for understanding law in today’s society.
“I think it is important because the legal system subjects to the same biases that exist in every other aspect of society, but the consequences of those biases can have a much more dire impact on people’s lives,” she said.
Orland said having diverse voices within the legal field can help combat those biases.
Senior political science major Gabby Beech said she believes diversity is vital in law schools.
“Diversity in law schools and in law is important so that the laws properly represent the people and are not disproportionately favored toward one race or ethnic group,” she said. “Having African-Americans graduate from law school signifies not only a progress in our society but also in our laws.”