Discussion on African-American veterans to highlight Black History Month events at VCU

Black and white portrait of W.E.B. Du Bois. Text reads "We return. We return from fighting. ...
For its 17th annual Black History Month Lecture, VCU Libraries is featuring a statement from an essay by W. E. B. Du Bois about black veterans returning from World War I. He wrote "We return. We return from fighting. We return fighting." The program will feature a conversation-style panel of experts who will offer insight into the experiences of African-American veterans. (Courtesy photo)

Throughout February, Virginia Commonwealth University will celebrate Black History Month with a series of events, including a keynote address on political engagement among African-Americans and a panel discussion exploring how the United States has historically treated African-American veterans.

On Feb. 20, VCU Libraries will host its 17th annual Black History Month Lecture with a thought-provoking discussion about how U.S. society has treated African-American veterans after their service and how that affects them and their communities.

The event, which will be held from 7-9 p.m. at James Branch Cabell Library, Lecture Hall (Room 303), will feature:

  • Christy Coleman, executive director of the American Civil War Museum, who was featured in Time magazine's July 2018 article “Meet the 31 People Who Are Changing the South.” She will address the experience of African-Americans in the wake of the American Revolution and the Civil War.
  • Adriane Lentz-Smith, Ph.D, associate professor of African and African-American studies and women’s studies at Duke University and author of the 2009 book “Freedom Struggles: African-Americans and World War I.” Lentz-Smith will address the challenges faced by African-Americans after service during WWI.
  • Kiara Boone, deputy director of community education with the Equal Justice Institute, who will discuss EJI’s landmark 2016 report, “Lynching in America: Targeting Black Veterans.”
  • Jeffrey Blount (moderator), an Emmy Award-winning television director whose 34-year career at NBC News included a decade of directing such shows as “Meet the Press,” “Today” “The Chris Matthews Show” and others. He is a commentator on issues of race and social justice and a novelist whose latest book, “The Emancipation of Evan Walls,” is forthcoming this spring from Koehler Books.

The event is free and open to the public, but attendees are encouraged to RSVP.

Poster of 2019 Black History Month events at VCU

“W.E.B. Du Bois wrote of returning black soldiers, ‘for America and her highest ideals, we fought in far-off hope.’ Our inspiring panelists will help us all learn about the distinguished service of black soldiers and what that hope meant to them — and how America all too often abused its highest ideals and repaid their honorable service with the indignities of racial intolerance,” said John Ulmschneider, dean of libraries and university librarian at VCU. “We hope our audience learns about a little-known and poorly understood story: how, unlike with white soldiers, the selfless sacrifices of black soldiers often were met with injustice, disrespect and abuse when they returned home.”

VCU’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs also has organized a long list of events throughout the month, starting Friday with a kickoff from 5-7 p.m. in the Rams Lounge of the University Student Commons.

Greta Franklin, director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, said this year’s Black History Month events will provide “a better understanding of the diverse experiences and diversity of thought within the black/African-American community.”

“I hope that attendees [get] a better understanding of the cultural, academic and political contributions of African-Americans,” she said.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., associate professor of political science and African-American history at Fordham University, will deliver a keynote address, “Moving Beyond 2018, What Happens Next?” at 5 p.m. Feb. 5 at James Branch Cabell Library, Lecture Hall (Room 303).

Greer is the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” (Oxford University Press), which investigates the increasingly ethnically diverse black populations in the U.S. from Africa and the Caribbean and finds both ethnicity and a shared racial identity matter and affect policy choices and preferences for black groups. Her research and teaching focus on American politics, black ethnic politics, urban politics, quantitative methods and public opinion.

In her talk at VCU, Greer will discuss how race, gender and social class influence political engagement, Franklin said.

“She will be discussing issues that impact marginalized communities, in particular the black/African-American community, and why we need to stay engaged beyond midterm elections and presidential elections in order for our voices to be heard and issues to be addressed,” Franklin said.

For a full list of Black History Month events organized by the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, visit https://omsa.vcu.edu/cultural-heritage-months/black-history-month-2019/.