Lecture Series Focuses on the African-American Experience in Missouri

MU history professor Keona Ervin
Jordan Yount
News Source: 
College of Arts & Science

Beginning this month, MU and the State Historical Society of Missouri’s Center for Missouri Studies will present a series of lectures focusing on The African-American Experience in Missouri. The lecture series was announced in December by Chuck Henson, MU’s interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity, and equity. State Historical Society Executive Director Gary Kremer and MU history Professor Keona Ervin are working together to bring top scholars in the field to Columbia to participate in the lecture series.

Ervin says the lecture series is being developed in response to the campus protests over racial issues at MU last fall.

“There is certainly broad interest in the history of African-Americans in the state, and we have departments on campus and institutions on campus like the State Historical Society that focus on that, but the events on campus last semester have inspired those of us in staff and faculty positions to think about how we can bring what we do to the conversation about race in America,” Ervin says.

Ervin says there are 12 lectures planned for the series—approximately one each month, and that the lectures will not focus exclusively on the university or central Missouri.

“Presentations on everything from slavery and the meaning of race to urban decline and the rise of jazz culture are an essential step in continuing the dialogue that began last fall,” Ervin says. She says the goal is for the lecture series to stimulate conversations that spill over into all kinds of spaces, from family dinner tables to community organizations.

Ervin says race and racism is built into the very fabric of our state’s identity, beginning with the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and continuing through to the protests in Ferguson and Columbia. She says Missouri has significance to understanding the broader theme of race and racism in America.

“There is something about this place in particular that’s unique—that suggests larger trends and perhaps anticipates future trends in terms of thinking about these issues,” Ervin says. “We also have that to our credit—that we are trying to explore what it is about Missouri that is crucial to understanding the history of race, and where we go from here.”

Information about The African-American Experience in Missouri lecture series can be found by visiting http://diversity.missouri.edu.

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