PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Journalist and author Douglas Blackmon will give a lecture titled “A Persistent Past: Grappling with Our Troubled Racial History in the Age of Obama,” Tuesday, April 27, 2010, at 4 p.m., in Sayles Hall. Blackmon’s presentation is the inaugural Debra L. Lee Lecture on Slavery and Justice.
Doors open one hour prior to the event. The lecture is free and open to the public. A question and answer session and a book signing will follow the lecture.
Blackmon has written extensively about the American quandary of race, exploring the integration of schools during his childhood in a Mississippi Delta farm town, lost episodes of the Civil Rights movement, and, repeatedly, the dilemma of how a contemporary society should grapple with its troubled past. Many of his stories in The Wall Street Journal have explored the interplay of wealth, corporate conduct, and racial segregation.
In 2000, the National Association of Black Journalists recognized Blackmon’s stories revealing the secret role of J.P. Morgan & Co. during the 1960s in funneling funds between a wealthy northern white supremacist and segregationists fighting the Civil Rights Movement in the South. A year later, he revealed in the Journal how U.S. Steel Corp. used forced black laborers in Alabama coal mines in the early 20th century, an article that led to his first book, Slavery By Another Name, which broadly examines how a form of neoslavery thrived in the United States long after legal abolition.
The Debra L. Lee Lectures will serve as a key component of the University’s response to the Report of the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice and will bring to the University campus the most distinguished scholars of historic and contemporary issues related to the legacy of slavery in the Americas and elsewhere.
The lectureship’s sponsor, 1976 Brown alumna Debra L. Lee, is a member of Brown’s Board of Trustees and the chair and chief executive officer of BET Networks, a division of Viacom Inc. BET Networks is the leading provider of media and entertainment for African Americans and consumers of Black culture globally, reaching more than 120 million households including its music and entertainment brand. BET can also be seen in the United Kingdom and sub-Saharan Africa.
“This first of a series of talks on slavery and justice fulfills a challenge,” Lee said. “Our challenge is to look critically at the history of this country and what it can tell us about contemporary America, about who is in today’s board rooms, newsrooms, and classrooms, and who is not there. This University looked at itself to answer that question, and I’m proud to help to broaden and continue the discussion.”