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Cultural critic Gerald Early to discuss race, community at Humanities Center inaugural lecture

September 2, 2015
Gerald Early(Photo credit: Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photo)

On Thursday, Sept. 24, the University of Rochester will celebrate the opening of its Humanities Center with an inaugural talk by Gerald Early, a leading authority on race and American culture. The event will take place at 5 p.m. in the Hawkins-Carlson Room in Rush Rhees Library and is free and open to the public.

“Gerald Early is a distinguished scholar and a fascinating speaker whose talk about race, neighborhoods, and the arts is very relevant in today’s political climate,” said Joan Shelley Rubin, the center’s interim director and Dexter Perkins Professor in History.

Early is the Merle S. Kling Professor of Modern Letters and professor of English and of African and Afro-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, and he was the founding director of that institution’s humanities center. His research on and writing about American popular culture encompasses, among other areas, music, sports, and black America in the 1960s. He has appeared in Ken Burns’ documentaries on baseball, jazz, and prizefighting. His public talk in Rochester will center on his research on the African-American community in Philadelphia.

This lecture marks the first in a series of four this academic year, all sponsored by the Humanities Center and featuring distinguished scholars who have directed a humanities center at their own institution. During each two-day visit, the scholar will present a public lecture on his or her work, lead a workshop for faculty on building a humanities center, and meet with faculty, students, and, eventually the center’s fellows.

“During this first year, we are looking to our peers for guidance as we develop plans for what our center will be,” said Rubin, who added that all faculty workshops will be centered around the theme, “Humanities at the Crossroads: Charting Our Future.” In addition, the center has begun to partner with arts organizations in the Rochester area like the Rochester Oratorio Society to offer free programming to the community.

The creation of the University’s Humanities Center was announced last spring by Gloria Culver, dean of Arts & Sciences, as a way to support scholarly research, student engagement, and the creation of new knowledge. At that time, University President Joel Seligman, who supports the University’s Humanities Project with $150,000 from the President’s Venture Fund, committed a further $100,000 per year while he is president to support the center. Plans for the creation of a physical home in Rush Rhees Library are currently underway.

More information and a full schedule of the center’s inaugural events and workshops can be found at

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Category: Society & Culture