UConn News HomeUConn News

Cornel West is Dodd lecturer during Black History Month (Released: 2/6/96)

by Luis Mocete, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- Cornel West, philosopher and author of Race Matters, will lecture at the University of Connecticut Feb 26. in observance of Black History Month.

His lecture is co-sponsored by the Institute for African-American Studies and the Office of Community and Campus Relations. He will be the closing speaker for Black History Month and the first Dodd lecturer in 1996 to take part in the University s year-long commemoration of Fifty Years After Nuremberg: Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

The first Dodd lecture in the series was given by Madeleine Albright, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Albright spoke on human rights and U.S. foreign policy Oct. 17, 1995 during the four days of opening events, which included the dedication of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

West, a professor of religion and Afro-American Studies at Harvard University, will speak at 7 p.m. in von der Mehden Recital Hall.

One of this country s most eloquent and provocative speakers, West seeks to promote a greater appreciation for the kind of perceptions that African-Americans bring to their status and condition in this society, said Ronald Taylor, Director of the Institute for African-American Studies.

He wrote Race Matters in 1993, which quickly achieved best-seller status. The book addresses urgent issues for black Americans, including the new black conservatism, black-Jewish relations and myths about black sexuality.

In his writing West addresses a range of social issues and developments with implications for society in general and African-Americans in particular, Taylor said. He stresses how essential it is for whites, African-Americans and other people of color to work together to address their common problems and to work toward the realization of social justice for all.

Since joining Harvard in 1994, West has written Jews & Blacks: Let the Healing Begin, which he co-authored with Tikkun Magazine editor Michael Lerner. The book has received great reviews, one of them coming from Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism.

In an eloquent and spirited dialogue, Cornel West and Michael Lerner show that blacks and Jews can transform the moral and cultural landscape of America, and are jointly central to America s ultimate redemption, Saperstein said.

West, born in Tulsa, Okla., in 1953, moved around with his family before settling in Sacramento, Calif. It was in Sacramento where the young West began what would become a lifelong habit of protest by refusing to salute the American flag because of the second-class status of African-Americans in the United States.

West had been deeply touched by parishioners of the Baptist church, who told stories of blacks maintaining their religious faith during slavery. He was equally impressed with the commitment of the Black Panthers, whose office was near his boyhood church. It was from the Panthers that he began to understand the importance of community-based political action, he said.

But it was a biography of Theodore Roosevelt that influenced his academic future. He identified with Roosevelt because both were asthmatic.

West read how Roosevelt had overcome his asthma, went to Harvard and became a great speaker. So, at 8 years old, even though he wasn t exactly sure what it was, West decided he would go to Harvard, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1973.

His first teaching position came as an associate professor of philosophy of religion in 1977 at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. West moved on to Yale University in 1984 and to Princeton in 1988, where he received his doctorate degree.

  1. Return to this month's index page
  2. Return to UConn News Releases homepage