The birth of the Joseph E. Lowery Institute grew out of plans to celebrate Dr. Joseph E. Lowery’s 80th birthday in October 2001. The Planning Committee wanted to ensure the continuity of the advocacy of Dr. Lowery and his lifelong, enduring commitment to non-violent advocacy, and to the moral, ethical, and theological imperative of justice and human rights for all people.
The Institute is housed in the Thomas Cole Building on the Campus of Clark Atlanta University (CAU) through a partnership agreement between the Institute and CAU. CAU, a core entity for both undergraduate and graduate studies provides a phenomenal locus for the Institute. The historicity of the civil rights movement; the intercontinental flow and flavor of students, scholars, and political figures; the academic excellence and diversity which embraces both spiritual and scientific healing – all endemic to the Atlanta University Center, render it an ideal choice.
Some of the more noteworthy accomplishments of the Institute include:
- Change of name of Ashby Street to the Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. This historic street not only runs through the Atlanta University Center but crosses both Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and Ralph Abernathy Street, linking three Presidents of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
- Establishment of the Partnership with the Atlanta School Board to yearly sponsor the Reverend Joseph E. Lowery Lecture Series. Through the years the series has presented renown speakers such as Dr. David Satcher, Judge Glenda Hatchett, Judge Penny Brown Reynolds, Bill Cosby; Derek Watkins – aka “Fonzworth Bentley” and others.
- Sponsorship of Forums on Criminal Justice.
- Sponsorship of Forum on Theology and Public Policy: The Role of the Church in the Public Policy Debate
- Forum on “Reclaiming Our Youth: No Throw Away Kids”
- Creation of “Boys to Men” Mentoring Program
Funds derived from birthday celebrations have supported its programmatic activities. Some of these celebrations have included Tavis Smiley as the featured participant for a Voters Rights Discussion at the 2002 Breakfast Celebration; Aretha Franklin highlighted the 2007 and 2009 event along with creative skits by the AU center; the 2011 celebration included the 5 Blind Boys, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Holiday, and many other notable performers.,
The Institute looks forward to, through the use of Lowery Fellows nurtured in advocacy, continue to engage the public in examining policies and practices that ensure justice for all; encourage voter awareness and empowerment; examine health care disparities; provide a forum for dialogue; and provide a human laboratory for research and analysis of pertinent issues.