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Kristi Henderson
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Renowned African-American literary, cultural scholar to lecture at KU

Fri, 03/22/2013

LAWRENCE – Houston A. Baker Jr., a scholar known for his critiques of African-American literature and theory, will present a public lecture at the University of Kansas.

“Why Are Black Public Intellectuals Afraid of the Ocean?: Slave Ships, Diaspora Literacy, and Cultural Erasures in the Age of Obama” will be the topic of discussion for Baker, a distinguished university professor at Vanderbilt University.

The lecture will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, in the Big 12 Room of the Kansas Union. A book signing will follow. The event is hosted by the Department of English as the 2013 installment of its American Lecture series.

Baker’s literary and cultural criticism focuses on African-American arts and politics. His latest book, “Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era,” was honored with an American Book Award in 2009. Other titles include “I Don’t Hate the South: Reflections on Faulkner, Family, and the South” (2007) and “Turning South Again: Re-Thinking Modernism/Re-Reading Booker T” (2001).

“Houston Baker is one of the most prolific scholars of our time with his books, trenchant critiques and intellectual engagement in the field of literary studies,” said Byron Caminero-Santangelo, associate professor of English. “He has been at the center of paradigm shifts in the ways we teach and write about music and literature, African-American and ethnic literature, and Southern studies. His reach is broad and his expertise wide-ranging. His latest book is sure to invite lively debate.”

Baker is past president of the Modern Language Association. He has been recognized for his scholarly activities as a Guggenheim Fellow and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow.  In addition to his scholarly books, he has written several groundbreaking articles and essays. He is also a creative writer who has published his poems in a volume called “Passing Over.”

The Department of English is part of KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which encourages learning without boundaries in its more than 50 departments, programs and centers. Through innovative research and teaching, the College emphasizes interdisciplinary education, global awareness and experiential learning. It is the broadest and most diverse academic unit at KU.



David Roediger’s award-winning research and writing has already transformed how historians view the growth of social freedoms in America though the intersection of race, class, ethnicity, and labor. Now Roediger, as KU’s first Foundation Distinguished Professor of History (http://bit.ly/1AbAqYw), will continue to break new ground in those fields as he works with KU’s departments of American Studies and History. Roediger likes to study historical flash points — where one particular change brings a cascade of wider cultural changes. His latest book, “Seizing Freedom, Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All,” makes the point that as slaves began freeing themselves across the South during the Civil War, their emancipation inspired and ignited other cultural movements for freedom — such as the women’s movement for suffrage and the labor movement for better working conditions and an eight-hour day. Understanding the individual stories of average people who wanted to make their lives better, including slaves or factory workers, are important to understanding the wider political movements and elections, Roediger said. “It's tempting to think that all the important political questions have been decided,” he said, “but actually people are constantly thinking about what freedom would mean for them.” Tags: #KUcommunities #CivilRights #History American Studies at KU
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Lauded race and class historian becomes KU Foundation Professor David Roediger’s award-winning research and writing has already transformed how historians view the growth of social freedoms in America though the intersection of race, class, ethnicity, and labor. Now Roediger, as KU’s first Foundation Distinguished Professor of History (http://bit.ly/1AbAqYw), will continue to break new ground in those fields as he leads KU’s departments of American Studies and History. Roediger likes to study historical flash points — where one particular change brings a cascade of wider cultural changes. His latest book, “Seizing Freedom, Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All,” makes the point that as slaves began freeing themselves across the South during the Civil War, their emancipation inspired and ignited other cultural movements for freedom — such as the women’s movement for suffrage and the labor movement for better working conditions and an eight-hour day. Understanding the individual stories of average people who wanted to make their lives better, including slaves or factory workers, is important to understanding the wider political movements and elections, Roediger said. “It's tempting to think that all the important political questions have been decided,” he said, “but actually people are constantly thinking about what freedom would mean for them.”


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