University of Hartford welcomes two renowned speakers on race, politics, culture, and human and civil rights to campus this week and next. Georgetown Professor of Sociology Michael Eric Dyson will sit and answer questions from students, faculty, and the public on Wednesday, February 13 during “A Conversation with Michael Eric Dyson” in Lincoln Theater on the University campus. The media commentator and prolific author has written 19 books. His most recent is Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America. He has won many prestigious honors, including an American Book Award and two NAACP Image Awards.
A native of Detroit, Dyson rose from welfare father to Princeton Ph.D., from church pastor to college professor, from a factory worker who didn’t start college until he was 21 to a public intellectual. He earned his undergraduate degree at Carson Newman College in Tennessee where he also became an ordained minister. After college, he worked as assistant director of a poverty project at Hartford Seminary in 1988 then moved on to become an instructor of ethics and cultural criticism at Chicago Theological Seminary. He earned his master’s degree and PhD from Princeton in 1993, the same year he published his first book Reflecting Black. Prior to teaching at Georgetown, he taught at Brown University, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Columbia University, DePaul University, and University of Pennsylvania.
Dyson’s appearance is presented by the University’s Jackie McLean Jazz Studies Division in The Hartt School, the President’s Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Office of the Dean of Hartford Art School, and the Office of the Dean of Hillyer College.
Dyson will appear in Lincoln Theater on the University of Hartford campus, 200 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford, Connecticut at 1 p.m. on February 13. The event is free and open to students, faculty, staff, and the public. Tickets are required and can be obtained online here, at the box office (Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.), or by phone at 860.768.4228.
One week later, on Wednesday, February 20, the University will hold its 14th annual observance of “Keeping Dr King’s Dream Alive,” in Lincoln Theater. The hour-long event is being held in February for the first time because the federal King Holiday occurs before students return from holiday break. In addition to Davis, the program will include music performed by the University’s Gospel Choir and by faculty and students from The Hartt School, as well as a dramatization of a poem by Harlem Renaissance-era poet Langston Hughes. Activist and Professor Angela Y. Davis will speak and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Davis is an icon of black politics and social activism worldwide dating back to the 1960s when Dr. King led many civil rights battles.
After earning an undergraduate degree in French at Brandeis University, master’s degree in philosophy at University of California, San Diego, and doctorate in philosophy from Humboldt University in Germany, Davis began her teaching career in 1969 at the University of California, Davis, where she was soon fired by the school's administration because of her association with communism. She fought in court and got her job back but left when her contract expired in 1970.
Davis went on to teach at colleges such as UCLA, Vassar, Syracuse, the Claremont Colleges, and Stanford. Her work as an educator—both at the university level and in the larger public sphere—emphasizes the importance of building communities of support for economic, racial, and gender justice. Most recently, she taught for 15 years at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where after retiring in 2008, she is now distinguished professor emerita of history of consciousness—an interdisciplinary PhD program—and of feminist studies.
Throughout her life and career, Davis has focused on many social justice issues including those associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination. She draws upon her own experiences in the early 1970s as a person who spent 18 months in jail and on trial after being placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.” She was charged with conspiracy as a result of having purchased firearms used in an armed takeover of a Marin County, Calif., courtroom, in which four persons were killed. She was acquitted of this charge and later became a co-founder of Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison–industrial complex, a term used to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social, and political problems.
The annual “Keeping Dr. King’s Dream Alive” program is presented by the University’s Martin Luther King Day Observance Planning Committee.
The 2019 observance will take place in Lincoln Theater on Wednesday, February 20 from noon to 1 p.m. The event is free and open to students, faculty, staff, and the public but tickets are required. Tickets are available online and in person at the Lincoln Theater box office (Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.), or by phone at 860.768.4228.
Dyson’s and Davis’s appearances follow a Rogow Distinguished Lecture by Zachary R. Wood on Monday, February 4 on campus. Wood shared his own personal story and how his own experiences inspired him to be a crusader for open dialogue and free speech. Wood entered the national spotlight while a senior at Williams College where he was president of the student group "Uncomfortable Learning." He strengthened the group’s commitment to inviting speakers with controversial perspectives to speak freely on the college’s campus. He is an activist for free speech and a firm believer that civil debate is a crucial part of one’s education.
The Wood, Dyson, and Davis appearances are two of a long list of events on the University campus in February designed to celebrate diversity, inclusion, civil and human rights, and the open exchange of ideas. The full list of events can be viewed at hartford.edu/unityevents.