Carol Pauli. Photo courtesy of

Texas A&M law professor to discuss Cairo civil rights movement

A law professor who was once involved in the civil rights movement in Cairo in the early 1970s while working as a substitute teacher there will discuss her experiences at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

Carol Pauli, an associate professor at the Texas A&M University School of Law, will present “A Civil Rights Remembrance,” as part of the Dean’s Colloquium at the SIU School of Law. The lecture is at 12:20 p.m., Monday, April 24, in the Hiram H. Lesar Building Courtroom. 

The event is free and open to the public.

Pauli is working on a personal memoir set against a civil rights class action lawsuit that originated in Cairo and reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, where Pauli watched oral arguments. The case was brought by civil rights lawyers who alleged the county’s judicial system was guilty of racial bias and systematically violating the U.S. Constitution. In January 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against the plaintiffs, holding that the federal court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because the plaintiffs did not show they had been harmed or would be harmed in the future. 

Pauli is a former broadcast, television and newspaper journalist; graduating from the University of Evansville with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. It was there that she worked as a general assignment reporter and feature writer for the Evansville Courier & Press, and later for the Decatur Herald & Review from 1969 to 1971. She then gained her teaching certificate in English from SIU Carbondale in 1971 and taught for three years in Alexander County. Pauli’s journalism experience includes later working as a staff writer, editor and producer at CBS News in New York, and writing and editing broadcast news scripts for the Associated Press. 

Pauli said she wanted to be “directly involved” in the civil rights issues happening in Cairo in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and spent the summer of 1971 at SIU to take courses needed for an Illinois teaching certificate. She did student teaching in Mounds, about seven miles north of Cairo, living in a rural African American neighborhood in a home with no running water or heat. 

Pauli spent three years as a substitute teacher in Cairo and worked in a sickle cell anemia program there. While she wasn’t reporting at the time, “I couldn’t help taking notes,” she said. 

Pauli earned a master’s degree in journalism in 1975 from Columbia University, and her law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2007. Her experience also includes serving as an associate instructor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, a specialist with the U.S. Information Agency in Washington, D.C., an assistant professor at Marist College and associate professor at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law. 

Pauli said she’s grateful to return to SIU to discuss her experiences in Cairo. 

“I treasure my friendships among the civil rights crowd I met in Cairo. While writing and remembering, I have continually been struck by the generosity and sheer endurance of the African Americans we knew there,” she said.

The Gazette-Democrat

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