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Rethinking the Public Sphere 2019-2020

Part I: Race and the Promise of Participation

This multi-year series responds to current challenges to rational public debate. Speakers from different humanities disciplines shed light on institutions that define public life. The 2019-20 speaker series highlights the demand for racial equality in the international and historical contexts of the public sphere. This year’s talks focus on different case studies, such as how museums deal with collective memories of past atrocities. They demonstrate how philosophy and poetry contribute to our moral imagination of racial equality, and they analyze personal memoirs of past struggles for the right to vote. Over the course of two semesters, speakers will deepen our understanding of public discussion and move us beyond current impasses.

View lectures from this series online.



Ana-Lucia Araujo (Howard University, Department of History)
“Museums and Slavery: Engaging the Past and the Present in the Public Sphere”
4:00pm Thursday October 24, 2019 @ Smathers Library 100

How have museums engaged the debates about human atrocities? This lecture explores the development of permanent exhibitions and museums dedicated in part or entirely to address the problem of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade in England, France and the United States, by examining the cases of the Nantes History Museum, Museum of Aquitaine, the International Slavery Museum, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I contend that the official memory of slavery is shaped by other modalities of memory (collective, cultural, and public) but in various nations it also depends on government involvement in publicly and privately funded initiatives. Therefore, although official, these memories are not static. They remain dynamic like the societies where they emerge. The inclusion of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade in the museum exposes the nuanced approaches through which each country engages with its own black and white communities. It also reveals how each nation deals with its regional, national, and international pasts, where racism and white supremacy persist.

Ana Lucia Araujo is a social and cultural historian. Her work explores the history and the memory of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery and their social and cultural legacies. In the last fifteen years, she authored and edited over ten books, including Reparations for Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History (2017). Her next book Slavery in the Age of Memory: Engaging the Past will be published in 2020. She is a member of the Board of Editors of the American Historical Review and a member of the editorial board of the journal Slavery and Abolition. In 2017, she joined the International Scientific Committee of the UNESCO Slave Route Project. Currently she is a full professor in the Department of History of the historically black Howard University in Washington DC.


Christopher Lebron (Johns Hopkins University, Department of Philosophy)
“‘A Coming Out Of Ourselves’: Knowing Our Place In Racial Injustice”
5:30pm Thursday November 14, 2019 @ Smathers Library 100

Racial injustice has remained a stubborn feature of American society. One reason for its persistence is that everyday Americans fail to understand the problem of racial injustice as a lived experience. In his talk, Dr. Lebron will explore the uses of moral imagination to expand white Americans’ awareness of racial inequality but do so through an eclectic gathering of resources ranging from philosophy to black poetry. His argument is simple but urgent: doing better at supporting racial justice requires knowing both when you are racially wrong due to privilege but also knowing what counts as a racial wrong generally. The way to know these things better is to extend our sensitivities and social awareness to encompass the black experience in America.

Chris Lebron is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. His first book, The Color of Our Shame: Race and Justice in Our Time (OUP 2013) won the American Political Science Association Foundations of Political Theory First Book Prize. His second book The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea (OUP 2017) offers a brief intellectual history of the black lives matter social movement. Chris is the winner of the 2018 Hiett Prize in the Humanities, which recognizes a “career devoted to the humanities and whose work shows extraordinary promise to have a significant impact on contemporary culture.” In addition to his scholarly publications, Chris has been an active public intellectual, writing numerous times for The New York Times‘s philosophy column, The Stone, and a wide variety of other publications including Boston Review, The Nation, The Atlantic, and Billboard Magazine.


Leigh Ann Wheeler (History, Binghamton University)
“Anne Moody and Voting Rights in the Era of Black Power: After Coming of Age in Mississippi
4:00pm Thursday February 13, 2020 @ Smathers Library 100

Anne Moody is best known for her civil rights activism and her acclaimed memoir, Coming of Age in Mississippi (1968).  Until now, no one has known what happened in Moody’s life after her memoir ends in 1964.  This talk will show how Anne Moody’s thinking about civil rights evolved in response to her experiences in the South and then in the North.  It will also show how Black Power brought voting rights to Moody’s hometown of Wilkinson County, Mississippi.

Leigh Ann Wheeler is Professor of History at Binghamton University, a former editor of the Journal of Women’s History, and the author of two monographs.  She was awarded an NEH Public Scholar Fellowship for 2019-2020 to work on her current project, the biography of Anne Moody.

Series Funders and Co-Sponsors:

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, George A. Smathers Libraries, Office of Research, UF International Center, Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere (Rothman Endowment), Bob Graham Center for Public Service, Department of Political Science, Center for African Studies, Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research, Center for Latin American Studies, African American Studies Program, School of Art and Art History, Department of Philosophy, Samuel Procter Oral History Program, Department of History, UF Chief Diversity Officer, Rothman Family Chair in the Humanities (Jack Davis), Hyatt and Cici Brown Chair of History (Sean Adams)