May 10, 2022 — The University of Memphis’ Institute for Public Service Reporting (IPSR) is launching a new investigative journalism project to explore racial injustice in the Mid-South and is hiring a veteran journalist to head it up.
Laura Faith Kebede will serve as coordinator of “Civil Wrongs,’’ a serialized reporting initiative appearing in print and broadcast mediums that will investigate unsolved and unresolved murders of the civil rights era as well as historical and modern abuses such as environmental injustice, voter suppression and police oppression.
Kebede comes to IPSR with a decade of reporting experience, including five years writing about education inequities in Memphis. She recently hosted and wrote WKNO public television’s special History, Justice and the Journalists on unresolved civil rights crimes in the Memphis area.
In partnership with WKNO, Report for America and the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media, the Civil Wrongs project will investigate lynchings, deaths related to civil rights work, and racially motivated massacres in Memphis and the Mid-South and analyze their effect today. Stories on these long-neglected cases will include revealing new information collected from court documents, historical archives and interviews with descendants and potential witnesses.
The project aims to promote understanding and healing by connecting these tragedies to systemic racism still present today.
“We are thrilled to have Laura join our talented team and lead this vital effort,” said U of M journalism professor Otis Sanford, co-founder of IPSR. “The goal of the ‘Civil Wrongs’ project is to shine an important light on a part of our history that has been ignored for far too long. I believe any community can have a brighter future when it better understands its past, warts and all.”
The Civil Wrongs project is made possible by financial support from Report For America, WKNO and the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change as well as private donations from Gayle Rose, Ruby Bright, Becky Wilson, Jeanne Jemison and Jocelyn Wurzburg.
The project is the latest journalistic venture for IPSR, a professionally staffed newsroom founded in 2018 on the campus of the University of Memphis and dedicated to civic-minded journalism. Its robust, independent investigative reporting and in-depth explanatory journalism aims to promote a vibrant democracy, foster inclusiveness and enrich the lives of the people of Greater Memphis, including its many underserved communities. IPSR does this while providing hands-on training to university students who will become our community’s next generation of journalists. Visit IPSR’s website here.