University of Rochester

Conference Examines Origins of Racial Discontent in U.S.

April 13, 1998

The issue of race and its role in American politics will be explored at a conference sponsored by the University May 1 and 2.

"The national dialogue on race initiated by President Clinton is an example of the ability of race to surface, fade, and reemerge in the nation's political consciousness," said Fredrick C. Harris, assistant professor of political science at the University of Rochester and conference planner. Often lacking in discussions about race, Harris believes, are the links that connect historical factors to contemporary forces in American politics.

A total of 14 speakers at the conference, titled "Race in the Development of American Politics and Society: The Origins of Discontent," will develop such topics as race and citizenship, black nationalism, race and institutional change in Britain, France and the United States, racial meaning in America, and the development of ethnic communities.

Besides Harris, University political science professors Stanley Engerman and Gerald Gamm will participate. Speakers from other universities will include: Cary Fraser, Penn State University; Melissa Harris, Duke University; Victoria Hattam, New School for Social Research; Desmond King, Oxford University; HarrHHRobert Lieberman, Columbia University; Ian F. Haney Lopez, University of California, Berkeley School of Law; Michele Mitchell, University of Michigan; Darrell Moore, DePaul University; Dean Robinson, University of Massachusetts; Drew Smith, Butler University; and Rogers Smith, Yale University.

"Race has left its imprint on the framing of the Constitution, the nation's legal doctrines, the strategies of presidents and political parties, social policies, the allocation of government benefits, and the common understandings of what it means to be an American," said Harris.

The historical study of race and politics is an emerging field for political scientists and historians. Harris pointed out that an important goal of the sessions is to expose students to the depth of scholarship on the issue of race.

The conference is sponsored by the Dean of Faculty, the Dean's Office of the College, the Department of Political Science, and the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies. Sessions will be held in The Meliora.

The conference is dedicated to the late Sam C. Nolutshungu, professor of political science and African politics at the University, who died last year.

Those interested in attending can call (585) 275-4735 or e-mail