In 1963, Gov. Frank G. Clement created the Tennessee Human Rights Commission "to encourage, promote and advise the public of their human rights."
This was prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, which enshrined equal protection for citizens of various backgrounds.
The commission's work continues to this day and its scope and authority have expanded to include investigation and enforcement powers over human rights violations.
Beverly L. Watts assumed the role of executive director of the commission in 2007. On this episode of the Tennessee Voices podcast, we spoke about the commission's work.
We also talked about examining history as many states, including Tennessee, have banned teaching critical race theory in K-12 public school classrooms.
"History is history," she said "We have to be true to history. We can't erase it."
That means examining the darker parts of history such as the founding of the Ku Klux Klan in Pulaski, Tennessee in the 1860s and also the progress made in civil rights over time — as well as the work still to be done.
On Thursday, Dec. 9, at 5 p.m. CST/6 p.m. EST, the commission hosts its annual International Human Rights Day celebration, a virtual event focusing on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and "on human rights as the foundation for dignity."
Op-Ed by Beverly Watts: International Human Rights Day celebrated in challenging year
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David Plazas is the director of opinion and engagement for the USA TODAY Network Tennessee and an editorial board member of The Tennessean. Tweet to him at @davidplazas.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Honoring the global commitment to human rights with Beverly Watts