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A Leading Black Intellectual Looks at Obama Nov. 1

Randall Kennedy to discuss racial politics, the president and inflated views of racial progress

October 12, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Randall Kennedy, one of the nation’s most incisive voices on race in America today, will deliver the Allison Davis Lecture at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1, at Northwestern University.

His lecture, “The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency,” takes its title from his book of the same name, newly published by Pantheon Books. The free and public lecture will take place in the McCormick Tribune Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive on the University’s Evanston campus. A reception will follow.

A professor of law at Harvard University, Kennedy is known for his well-reasoned approach to the pitfalls and clichés of racial discourse. He has written extensively and provocatively about interracial marriage and adoption, the history of the so-called n-word and the complex relationship between race and crime.

Among the hot-button topics he explores in “The Persistence of the Color Line” are the complex relationship between the first black president and his African American constituency, the nature of racial opposition to Obama and the differences between Obama’s presentation of himself to blacks and whites.

Kennedy, a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, received the Robert Kennedy Book Award for “Race, Crime and the Law.” He also is the author of “Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity and Adoption” and “Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal.”

Writing of “The Persistence of the Color Line,” a New York Times book reviewer said it set the Obama presidency in relief against “the sorry history of racial politics in the United States.” It was an indication of how little people expected of their fellow Americans, Kennedy writes, that they thought they’d never in their lifetime see a black man elected president. 

The Allison Davis Lecture is sponsored by Northwestern’s African American studies department and the Edith Kreeger Wolf Endowment. It honors Davis, a distinguished African American scholar and author who, in 1948, became one of the first African Americans to receive tenure at a non-historically Black institution. 

Previous Davis Lecturers have included Patricia Williams, William Julius Wilson, Frances Berry and Melissa Harris-Lacewell. 

For more on the lecture, visit http://www.weinberg.northwestern.edu/events/email/nov 2011/allison-davis-2011.html

Topics: Campus Life