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George Vlahakis
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Last modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Cornel West to present Black History Month lecture at IUB on Feb. 5

Cornel West, a well-respected teacher, speaker and writer on African American affairs and a professor at Princeton University, will speak on Thursday, Feb. 5, at Indiana University Bloomington.

West, the Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion at Princeton, is the author of Race Matters, which received much media attention with its release in 1993, as well as The African-American Century: How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Century, with Henry Louis Gates Jr.

His lecture, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 7 p.m. in the IU Auditorium, 1211 E. 7th St. A reception will follow the lecture in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center located nearby at 275 N. Jordan Ave.

The lecture is being presented by Union Board, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Office of the Vice President for Institutional Development and Student Affairs.

West has been called one of America's most gifted and provocative public intellectuals. His writings and lectures weave together the American traditions of the Baptist church, transcendentalism, socialism and pragmatism. His best-selling book, Race Matters (Beacon Press), changed the course of America's dialogue on race, justice and democracy.

He also is an author of the books Restoring Hope, Jews and Blacks: Let the Healing Begin, The War Against Parents, The Future of American Progressivism and The Cornel West Reader. He has won numerous awards, including the American Book Award. He recently released a compact disc, Sketches of My Culture, which presents content from his lectures through hip-hop spoken word rhymes.

As a boy growing up in Sacramento, Calif., West was greatly impressed by the Baptist church. He had been deeply touched by the stories of parishioners who, only two generations from slavery, told stories of blacks maintaining their religious faith during the most trying of times.

West was equally attracted to the commitment of the Black Panthers, and it was from them that he began to understand the importance of community-based political action. However, it was a biography of Teddy Roosevelt that West borrowed from a neighborhood bookmobile that influenced his academic future and led him to Harvard University. After three years, West graduated magna cum laude. He also is a graduate of Princeton.

West's first book, Prophesy Deliverance!, advocated a socially concerned African American Christianity that draws from Marxism. He also was an influential force in developing the storyline for the popular Matrix movie trilogy.

He has worked with numerous political and social organizations. West has co-chaired the National Parenting Organization's Task Force on Parent Empowerment and been a member of President Clinton's National Conversation on Race. He also has taught at Harvard, Yale University and the Union Theological Seminary. He previously was chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Princeton.