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Distributed September 15, 2004
Contact Mary Jo Curtis

September 21, 2004
Slavery and Justice Committee to host lecture by John Hope Franklin

The Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice will sponsor a lecture, titled “An Open Letter to Jonathan Doe: Reflections on Racial Inequality in America,” by distinguished historian John Hope Franklin Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2004, at 7:30 p.m. in the Salomon Center for Teaching on The College Green. This event is free and open to the public.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice will begin its fall program with a public lecture by one of the nation’s most distinguished historians, John Hope Franklin, the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University.

Franklin, the author of more than a dozen books, will present “An Open letter to Jonathan Doe: Some Reflections on Racial Inequality in the United States” Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2004, at 7:30 p.m. in the Salomon Center for Teaching, located on The College Green. He will be introduced by Brown President Ruth Simmons. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Born in Oklahoma in 1915, Franklin received a bachelor’s degree at Fisk University, then earned an A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is the author of the classic From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, as well as hundreds of essays and more than a dozen other books, including George Washington Williams: A Biography, The Emancipation Proclamation” The Militant South, The Free Negro in North Carolina and The Color Line: Legacy for the Twentieth Century. In 1995, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has also received more than 100 honorary degrees from colleges and universities, including Brown.

Franklin served as chair of President Bill Clinton’s Initiative on Race. He has also served as president of the American Studies Association, the Southern History Association, the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association. His extraordinary life was recounted in the film “First Person Singular: John Hope Franklin,” which first aired on PBS in 1997. In the film, Franklin describes his life as a quest to improve “relations between the races in America by shedding light on our troubled past.”

In his lecture, Franklin will reflect on his own life and work, particularly on his experience as chairman of President Clinton’s National Initiative on Race.

“Professor Franklin is not only a model scholar and teacher, but he also truly embodies the highest values of America,” says James T. Campbell, associate professor of American civilization and chair of the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. “He also has ties to Brown. He is named after John Hope, a Brown alumnus who was a teacher and mentor to both of his parents, and he grew up in a family that counted Inman Page among its friends.” Page, Brown’s first African American alumnus, graduated in 1877 and later taught in the Oklahoma Territory.

The Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice

The committee was appointed in 2003 by President Simmons and charged “to organize academic events and activities that might help the nation and the Brown community think deeply, seriously and rigorously about the questions raised” by slavery and its legacy in the United States. As an institution whose early benefactors included both slave traders and pioneering abolitionists, Brown has an intimate relationship to this history, endowing the University with “a special opportunity and a special obligation” to contribute to this ongoing debate.

The committee sponsors a variety of lectures, symposia and conferences intended to illuminate the diverse historical, political, legal, ethical and moral questions raised by America’s slave past. Some of the programs focus specifically on Brown, while others examine more general questions of slavery and restitution and explore the history of movements for retrospective justice in other times and places. At the conclusion of its term, the committee will submit a report to the president and to the Brown community.

Other speakers appearing this semester under the committee’s auspices include Edward Ball, a Brown alumnus and author of the 1998 National Book Award-winning Slaves in the Family; David Blight, professor of history at Yale University; and Spencer Crew, a Brown alumnus and executive director of the new Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

For more information, visit

Upcoming Presentations

  • Oct. 5
    Edward Ball, alumnus, best-selling author of and winner of the 1998 National Book Award for Nonfiction for “Slaves in the Family”
  • Oct. 19
    Town Meeting with members of the Steering Committee
  • Oct. 25
    Panel discussion: “The Texture of Slavery in Colonial Rhode Island”
    Rachel Chernos Lin, Ph.D. candidate in history, Brown University, “Patterns of Involvement in the Rhode Island Slave Trade”
    Keith Stokes, Newport (R.I.) Chamber of Commerce, “African Life in Colonial Newport”
    Robert Emlen, University curator, Brown University, “Slave and Free Labor in the Construction of Brown’s University Hall”
  • Nov. 3
    David Blight, professor of history at Yale and incoming director of Yale’s Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, “Slavery and the Problem of Historical Memory”
  • Nov. 9
    Spencer Crew, director of the Underground Railroad Freedom Center
  • Nov. 16-17
    Two symposia on South African writing after Apartheid:
  • Nov. 16
    Tony Eprile, alumnus, critic and novelist (author of The Persistence of Memory)
    “History, Memory and Terror in the Struggle Against Apartheid”
  • Nov. 17
    Kelwyn Sole, poet, critic and professor of English, University of Cape Town
    “‘The Deep Thoughts the One in Need Falls Into’: Quotidian Experience and the Perspectives of Poetry in Post-Liberation South Africa”
  • Nov. 17
    Reading: Kelwyn Sole will read from his forthcoming collection of poems, Land (Footprints and Dreamstalkings), and Tony Eprile will read from The Persistence of Memory
  • Nov. 30
    Alfred Brophy, professor of law, University of Alabama
    “Of Memory and Forgetting: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921”
  • Dec 1
    Symposium on institutions confronting past complicity, with Alfred Brophy, of the University of Alabama, and Anne Farrow, of the Hartford Courant


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