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Distributed September 27, 2005
Contact Mark Nickel

Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice
Committee To Begin Year with Workshop on Legacies of U.S. Slavery

Brown University’s Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice will offer a workshop and a speaker series as its on-campus program for the fall semester. The committee was charged to investigate the University’s historical relationship to slavery and the slave trade and to organize public events about the historical, legal, political, and moral questions that this history raises. The committee is due to issue its report at the end of the year.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown University’s Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice will begin its program for the fall semester with a two-day workshop, “Legacies of Slavery in American Life: Politics, Education, and the Arts.” The interdisciplinary workshop will be held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2005, in Smith Buonanno Hall, Room 106, and will conclude with a reading by novelist John Edgar Wideman. It is open to the public without charge.

Later in the fall semester, the Steering Committee will offer “Perspectives on the Slavery Reparations Debate,” a lecture series that will include presentations by John McWhorter, author of Losing the Race: Self Sabotage in Black America and an outspoken critic of the reparations movement, and U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D.-Mich.), sponsor of H.R. 40, a bill to establish a commission to study the institution of slavery and to make recommendations to Congress on appropriate remedies.

The Steering Committee is also co-sponsor of a three-day international conference with Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition. That conference, “Repairing the Past: Confronting the Legacies of Slavery, Genocide and Caste,” will be held Oct. 27-29, 2005, in New Haven. It is free of charge, but registration is required online at

President Ruth J. Simmons created the Steering Committee in 2003 and charged it “to organize academic events and activities that might help the nation and the Brown community think deeply, seriously, and rigorously” about questions raised by the national debate over slavery. As an institution whose early benefactors included both slave traders and pioneering abolitionists, Brown, Simmons said, has “a special opportunity and a special obligation” to contribute to this ongoing debate.

“Discussions about the legacies of slavery – particularly the issue of how a society can move forward – are often very difficult, but that’s what universities are here for -- to confront questions that are complex and intractable in reasoned and rigorous ways,” said James T. Campbell, associate professor of American civilization, Africana studies and history and chair of the steering committee. “The speakers we have invited to campus represent a broad cross-section of opinion on these questions, in hopes of encouraging a wide-ranging dialogue on campus.” The committee’s report may be ready for presentation to President Simmons at the end of the semester, Campbell said.

An Interdisciplinary Workshop:
Legacies of Slavery in American Life: Politics, Education and the Arts
(All sessions to be held in Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106)

Friday, September 30

4 p.m. – A Panel on the Arts: Slavery in the Artistic and Popular Imagination

  • Ashraf Rushdy, Wesleyan University, “Slavery’s New Narratives; Slavery’s New Apologists”

  • Lisa Woolfork, University of Virginia, “Re-embodying American Slavery: Encountering Trauma in the Literary and Popular Imagination“

6 p.m. – Reception

7:30 p.m. – Reading and talk by novelist John Edgar Wideman

Saturday, October 1

8:30 a.m. – Coffee

9 a.m. – Panel: Reproducing Inequality

  • Linda Williams, University of Maryland, “Has the Voting Rights Act Worked? Confronting the Legacy of Political Discrimination”
  • Amanda Lewis, University of Illinois, Chicago, “Explaining Racial Inequality in Educational Outcomes: Why History Matters”

11 a.m. – Panel: Empathy and its Absence: Slavery, Race, Stigma

  • Glenn Loury, Brown University, “The Dynamics of Racial Inequality”
Tyrone Forman, University of Illinois, Chicago, “Race, Apathy, and Hurricane Katrina: The Anatomy of Racial Prejudice in the Post-Civil Rights Era”

1 p.m. – Lunch

2 p.m. – Roundtable discussion

Speaker Series: Perspectives on the Slavery Reparations Debate

Tuesday, October 18 – 7:30 p.m., Salomon Center, Room 001

John McWhorter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes and comments on issues of race, ethnicity and culture. He earned his Ph.D. in linguistics at Stanford in 1993 and has taught at Cornell University and the University of California–Berkeley. His academic specialty is language change and language contact. McWhorter is the author of The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language, on how the world’s languages arise, change, and mix, and Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music in America and Why We Should, Like, Care. He has also written a book on dialects and black English, The Word on the Street. An outspoken critic of the reparations movement. McWhorter is the author of Losing the Race: Self Sabotage in Black America.

Wednesday, October 26 – 7:30 p.m., Salomon Center, Room 001

Roy Brooks is the author of Atonement and Forgiveness A New Model for Black Reparations. Brooks presses the case for reparations in the form of a government apology and significant reparations, an approach that focuses on atonement and reconciliation rather than litigation. Brooks is the Warren Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of San Diego. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including Structures of Judicial Decision Making from Legal Formalism to Critical Theory (2002), When Sorry Isn’t Enough: The Controversy over Apologies and Reparations for Human Injustice (1999), Integration or Separation? A Strategy for Racial Equality (1996), and Rethinking the American Race Proble (California, 1990).

Monday, November 7 – 7:30 p.m., Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106

Adolph Reed Jr. is professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the interim national council of the Labor Party. A critic of reparations, Reed is the author of Without Justice for All: The New Liberalism and the Retreat from Racial Equality (editor, 2001); Class Notes: Posing as Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene (2000); Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era (1999); W.E.B. Dubois and American Political Thought: Fabianism and the Color Line (1997); The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon: The Crisis of Purpose in Afro-American Politics (1986); Race, Politics, and Culture: Critical Essays on the Radicalism of the 1960s (editor, 1986).

Monday, November 14 – 7:30 p.m., Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106

William (Sandy) Darity is the Cary C. Boshamer Professor of Economics and adjunct faculty in sociology at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. He also serves as research professor of public policy studies, African and African American studies and economics at Duke University. At UNC he directs the Institute of African American Research, a center on campus that focuses on peoples of the African diaspora. His research focuses on inequality by race, class and ethnicity, stratification economics, schooling and the racial achievement gap, North-South theories of trade and development, skin shade and labor market outcomes, the economics of reparations, the Atlantic slave trade and the Industrial Revolution, doctrinal history and the social psychological effects of unemployment exposure.

Monday, November 28 – 7:30 p.m., MacMillan Hall, Room 117

John Conyers (D-Mich.) is the second most senior member in the U.S. House of Representatives and was elected by his congressional colleagues to lead the Democratic side of the House Committee on the Judiciary. In addition to its oversight of the Department of Justice (including the FBI) and the Federal Courts, the Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over copyright, constitutional, consumer protection, and civil rights issues. Conyers is a sponsor of H.R. 40, a bill to establish a commission to study the institution of slavery and to make recommendations to Congress on appropriate remedies. He is also one of the 13 founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and is considered the dean of that group. Formed in 1969, the CBC was founded to strengthen African-American law makers ability to address the legislative concerns of Black and minority citizens.


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