Continuing the Legacy

The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice is pleased to announce The Frances Tarlton “Sissy” Farenthold Endowed Lecture Series in Peace, Social Justice and Human Rights, which will honor Sissy for her relentless pursuit of social justice.  We are also delighted that Houston’s Rothko Chapel, where Sissy served as chair of the board for many years, will host the lecture at the Chapel in alternating years.

In line with Sissy’s own history of exposing and responding to injustices and inequality as both a public servant and citizen, the lecture series will bring to Austin and Houston internationally renowned scholars, activists and politicians who will inspire their audiences to think and act creatively to respond to some of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. (See previous lecturers below.)

Many of Sissy’s supporters from across the country have donated or pledged over $100,000 of the $200,000 needed to endow the lecture series in perpetuity (see donors to the right). Gifts of any amount will help us toward that goal. All who make or pledge a donation of at least $5,000 will be listed in the Circle of Friends. Distributions from the endowment will be used to support the lecture series and relevant scholarship and programming in issues of peace, social justice and human rights in Sissy’s name.

Gifts and pledges may be made by credit card or by check (payable to “UT Austin Farenthold Endowment”), mailed to The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, University of Texas School of Law, 727 E. Dean Keeton Street, Austin, Texas 78705. To make a gift or pledge by phone, please call us at 512-232-4857.


The 2020 lecture will feature Charles M. Blow, an Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times, where his column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. Mr. Blow’s columns tackle hot-button issues such as social justice, racial equality, presidential politics, police violence, gun control, and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Mr. Blow is also a CNN commentator and was a Presidential Visiting Professor at Yale, where he taught a seminar on media and politics. Mr. Blow is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times best-selling memoir, Fire Shut Up in My Bones. The event is hosted by the Rothko Chapel in Houston and will take place online on October 1, 2020. Mr. Blow and audience members will join virtually.

For more information, please click here.

© Don Usner

The 2019 lecture will feature Ruth Wilson Gilmore, a renowned activist and public scholar known for her work on prison abolition.  Gilmore is professor of earth & environmental sciences and American studies, as well as director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. In addition to her scholarly work, Professor Gilmore co-founded several grassroots organizations, including the California Prison Moratorium Project, Critical Resistance, and the Central California Environmental Justice Network. The event will take place on September 26, 2019 at the University of Texas School of Law.

For more information, please click here.

The 2018 lecture featured Puerto Rican attorney and climate justice activist Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director of UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization, and the co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance. Yeampierre spoke to a large audience at the Rothko Chapel in Houston about the urgent need for radical, community-led action to counter the mounting forces of climate change, which disproportionately impact poor communities of color. The event, entitled “Climate Justice: The Time is Now, The Place is Here” took place on November 29, 2018 and featured an interview with Bryan Parras, co-founder of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services and a Dirty Fuels Gulf Organizer with the Sierra Club.

For more information, please click here.

The 2017 lecture featured labor organizer and activist Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Co-Director of Caring Across Generations. Her presentation, entitled “Immigration and the Future of American Families,” focused on the role of immigrant women in the American care economy, which is increasingly a central part of our entire economy. Her talk began with her personal story, and wove in the stories and solutions of immigrant women and the movement for a more caring economy and democracy. The event took place on October 19, 2017 at the University of Texas School of Law.

For more information, please click here.

The 2016 lecture featured Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. The event, entitled “Yes Justice, Yes Peace: The Role of Art in Confronting Inequality,” took place on October 3, 2016 at the Rothko Chapel in Houston. The lecture explored the intersection of the arts and human rights, and the need for artists and non-artists alike to engage more fully with the power of artistic expression in the instigation of social change. Mr. Walker was in conversation with Sarah Lewis, professor, curator, and bestselling author. A reception on the plaza followed in celebration of Sissy’s birthday. For more information, please click here.


The 2015 lecture featured writer, journalist, and professor Mark Danner. His talk was entitled “Spiraling Down: Human Rights, Endless War.” For more information, including photos and video, please click here.