African American and African Studies anniversary events are Oct. 19-22


Civil rights scholars, acclaimed writers and community organizers will come to UNL Oct. 19-22 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of UNL’s African American and African Studies Program.

Film screenings, performances and panel discussions are among the many other free events planned, with the community welcome to attend and participate.

The program, established in 1971 as part of UNL’s Institute for Ethnic Studies, promotes interdisciplinary research, teaching and outreach activities that explore, explain and support the experiences of the people of the African Diaspora, while bridging scholarly and community interests. Its work contributes to a growing body of knowledge that lies at the intersections of ethnicity, race, gender, class, sexual orientation and social justice.

The anniversary celebration will explore the theme "Reflecting the Past … Minding the Future." It kicks off Oct. 19 with a day of service organized by student groups.

Four featured speakers have been planned during the week, beginning with Mark Mathabane, author of the national best-selling autobiography "Kaffir Boy," among other works. He will present "Our Common Humanity" at 7 p.m. on Oct. 20 in the Nebraska Union.

In "Kaffir Boy," Mathabane shares the hardships of coming of age under apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s. He grew up in a one-square-mile ghetto amid poverty, late-night police raids, and everyday humiliation. He escaped to the United States after earning a tennis scholarship.

Acclaimed playwright, author and literary critic Lisa Thompson will present "Black Studies in the Age of Post-Blackness," at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 21 in Bailey Library on the second floor of Andrews Hall, 14th and T streets. She will examine the challenges facing black studies in an age that some critics have pronounced as post-racial and considers the ways contemporary black theater challenges the notion of post-blackness.

Thompson, an associate professor of English at the University of Albany, SUNY, is the author of "Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class," which explores the representation of black, middle-class, female sexuality by African-American women authors in narrative literature, drama, film and popular culture. The book received an honorable mention for the National Women’s Studies Association's Gloria E. Anzaldua Book Prize, which recognizes "groundbreaking scholarship in women's studies that makes significant multicultural feminist contributions to women of color/transnational scholarship."

Michael Honey, professor of humanities at the University of Washington-Tacoma who has done extensive research on Martin Luther King Jr., will present "Martin Luther King, Labor and the Long Civil Rights Movement," at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 22 in the Nebraska Union. Honey's address is the highlight of a daylong symposium on civil rights legacies. He also will perform "Links on the Chain," featuring the labor and civil rights songs of Pete Seeger, Bettie Mae Fikes and other freedom singers. Honey is the author of several books, including his most recent, "All Labor Has Dignity: The Labor and Economic Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."

A fourth featured speaker, also on Oct. 22, will discuss the vanguard of the southern civil rights movement during the mid-1960s, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Martha Prescod Norman Noonan will present "Hands on the Freedom Plow: The Women of SNCC," beginning at 3:30 p.m. in the Nebraska Union.

Noonan, a community organizer, activist, homemaker and history teacher specializing in the civil rights movement, worked for the SNCC in Alabama and Mississippi in the 1960s. Recently, Noonan helped organize and edit the landmark collection, "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts By Women in SNCC," a book in which 52 women from diverse backgrounds share their personal stories of working for SNCC on the front lines of the southern civil rights movement.

For a complete schedule of events, go to, or call 402-472-1663.

— Jean Ortiz Jones, University Communications

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