Cornel West, Ph.D.

VCU speaker series to explore race, citizenship and memory in the South

Speakers will include Cornel West, Ph.D., who will visit on Sept. 3.

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The Humanities Research Center at Virginia Commonwealth University will host a series of public events this fall to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery and to recognize the nation’s ongoing journey toward racial justice.

The speaker series, “Race, Citizenship, and Memory in the South,” will get underway on Sept. 3 with a talk by public intellectual and Princeton University professor Cornel West, Ph.D. The series will aim to inform and engage a broad audience in and around Richmond as well as at VCU about a range of issues affected by the legacy of the 13th Amendment. All of the events are free and open to the public.

“As recent tragic events across the United States have shown, tensions surrounding racial issues have yet to be resolved, even 150 years after the passage of the 13th Amendment,” said Richard Godbeer, Ph.D., director of the Humanities Research Center and a professor in the Department of History in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “I hope that this speaker series will encourage open and constructive conversation about issues of race and citizenship among residents of Richmond and its surrounding communities as well as among students and faculty at VCU.”

These speaker events, Godbeer added, “will illustrate how deeply relevant humanities scholarship is to public conversation about the past, present and future direction of our society.”

“Invoking Our Collective Memory”
Sept. 3 at 6 p.m.
Cornel West
Stuart C. Siegel Center, 1200 W. Broad St.

Cornel West, Ph.D.
Cornel West, Ph.D.

Cornel West, Ph.D., one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals and a champion of racial justice, will launch the series with a keynote address. West has written 19 books, including “Race Matters,” “Democracy Matters,” and his new memoir, “Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud.” He has been a frequent guest on CNN, C-Span, “Real Time With Bill Maher,” and “The Colbert Report,” as well as on Tavis Smiley’s PBS TV and NPR radio shows. This event is co-sponsored by VCU’s Office of the President, the Division for Inclusive Excellence and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.


“ ‘You Can’t Run Away From Trouble’: Song and Story in Disney’s ‘Song of the South’ ”
Sept. 10 at 6 p.m.
Kathy Merlock Jackson
The Depot, 814 W. Broad St.

Kathy Merlock Jackson
Kathy Merlock Jackson

Kathy Merlock Jackson, Ph.D., a professor and coordinator of communication at Virginia Wesleyan College, will speak about the cultural politics of Disney’s “Song of the South.” First released in 1946, “Song of the South” was an ambitious and innovative cinematic experiment combining live actors with animation. But the film’s depiction of African-American former slaves and of race relations in the Reconstruction era was condemned by many critics as overtly racist. The film has never been released on home video; indeed, the Disney Corp. keeps it firmly locked away. The film’s troubled history provides a remarkable window onto changing attitudes toward race in the mid- to late-20th century. This event is co-sponsored by VCU’s Southern Film Festival.


“What Does the Civil War Mean in Richmond Today?”
Sept. 29 at 6 p.m.
James Loewen
VCU Student Commons, Richmond Salons I-IV, 907 Floyd Ave.

James Loewen
James Loewen

James Loewen, Ph.D., one of America’s most provocative public historians, will speak about Civil War memory in Richmond and the South. Loewen’s research focuses on how Americans remember their past and the ways in which that past has been misrepresented in the classroom, and he is best known for his book, “Lies My Teacher Told Me.” Loewen has taught at several universities, including the University of Vermont and the Catholic University of America. He has played a central role in conversations across the nation about the reframing of U.S. history textbooks to provide students with a more balanced and accurate knowledge of the past.



“F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African-American Literature”
Oct. 13 at 4 p.m.
William Maxwell 
VCU Student Commons, Richmond Salons III-IV, 907 Floyd Ave.

William Maxwell, Ph.D., an associate professor of English and African and African-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, will speak about his new book, “F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African-American Literature.” Drawing on nearly 14,000 pages of recently released FBI files, the book exposes and examines the FBI’s policing of African-American poems, plays, essays and novels over five decades in a bid to anticipate black protest. The agency sought to prevent these authors from traveling abroad and laid contingency plans for the arrest of many of these authors in the event of national emergency. It shows that the FBI’s fear of black protest was fueled in large part by its recognition of the power of African-American literature.

“Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, A Virginia Town, A Civil Rights Battle”
Oct. 19 at 7 p.m.
Kristen Green
VCU Student Commons, Richmond Salons I-II, 907 Floyd Ave.

Kristen Green
Kristen Green

Journalist Kristen Green will discuss her new book, “Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, A Virginia Town, A Civil Rights Battle.” Virginia’s Prince Edward County refused to abide by the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1954 decision in favor of desegregation, closed its public schools, established in their place a private academy and appropriated supplies from closed schools for their all-white classrooms, while black parents struggled to find alternative education for their children. Green grew up in Farmville and attended Prince Edward Academy, which did not open its doors to black students until 1986. In this book, she has uncovered her hometown’s dark history and also her own family’s complex involvement in the community’s response to civil rights legislation.

Django Unchained: Screening and Panel Discussion”
Oct. 27 at 6 p.m.
Grace Street Theater, 934 W. Grace St.

Django Unchained
Django Unchained

“Django Unchained” is Quentin Tarantino’s most commercially successful and perhaps his most controversial film. Some critics have condemned the film’s representation of race and slavery, while others have defended Tarantino against these attacks. Many aspects of the film have attracted the attention of scholars and a recent collection of essays edited by Oliver Speck, Ph.D., an associate professor of German and European cinema in the School of World Studies, part of the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, brought together a range of academic perspectives on the movie. This panel discussion, featuring experts in film studies, African-American studies, and women’s and gender studies, to be followed by a screening of the film, will engage some of those perspectives in an open conversation about “Django Unchained” and its implications. This event is co-sponsored by the VCU School of the Arts Cinema Program, the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and the Richmond branch of the NAACP.


“Powering the Pulpit: Religion, Race and Politics in Post-Emancipation Virginia”
Nov. 18 at 7 p.m.
Nicole Myers Turner
VCU Student Commons, Richmond Salons I-II, 907 Floyd Ave.

Nicole Myers Turner, an expert in African-American history who will join VCU’s Department of History as a professor in fall 2016, will speak about her current book project, “Faith and Freedom: The Politics of Black Religious Institutions in Post-Emancipation Virginia.” Her research explores the ways in which Virginia’s free and freed people used their churches and religious educational institutions to define and fight for freedom in the late-19th century. Focusing on black churches in Petersburg and Southside Virginia, Turner shows how religious and political movements became tightly interwoven during the decades following emancipation.


Featured image up top : Cornel West., Ph.D. 


About VCU and the VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see