In 2019, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Dialogue will feature a keynote speech from Leslie M. Harris, professor of history at Northwestern University.
The committee responsible for organizing this year’s Day of Dialogue was comprised of Associate Dean of Students/Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Chris Kennerly, Assistant Director of Academic and Ceremonial Events Courtney DeCosky, and Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ted Mason. According to Mason, the group also received help from President Sean Decatur and members of the President’s Office.
Harris focuses her teachings on pre-Civil War African American history, but she has taught classes on everything from race, gender and sexuality in U.S. history to the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans.
“Perhaps the best thing about Prof. Harris’s scholarship is that it broadens and deepens our understanding of a part of U. S. history and certainly the history of the globe,” Mason wrote in an email to the Collegian. “The topic of slavery is so often ignored. And when not ignored, it is, more often than not, certainly misunderstood. Prof. Harris’s scholarship does a fascinating job of documenting slavery’s ‘reach.’”
On Jan. 21, Harris will deliver an address titled “‘Community’ Is a Verb.” Her research, much like Kenyon’s annual Day of Dialogue, focuses on the overlapping of communities. For example, Harris’ first book, In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863, looks at the “impact of northern and southern slavery on the definitions of class, gender, citizenship and political activism promulgated by New York’s blacks and whites,” according to the Northwestern University website.
This year’s day of dialogue also follows a series of “Kenyon Listens” events in which were spearheaded by Carrie Knell, the College’s ombudsperson, with the goal of bringing the community together to start conversations.
“We were particularly interested in following out some of the threads from last spring’s community conversations,” Mason wrote. “Of the names we considered, Prof. Leslie Harris seemed the most appropriate. Some of us were quite familiar with her work and were excited that she was able to accept our invitation.”
Harris will deliver the address in Rosse Hall at 3 p.m., and the day’s schedule will be adjusted in order to allow students and faculty members to attend. Classes during the day will be held earlier than their scheduled times.
Information on other scheduled activities and discussions during the day is still forthcoming, but Mason expects a Q&A and a follow up discussion in Peirce.