NEWARK, N.J. – The evolution in the concepts of black beauty – and how they have changed over time – will be explored at the 2011 Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series. New Jersey’s largest and most prestigious conference commemorating Black History Month celebrates its 31st anniversary on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at the Paul Robeson Campus Center on the Rutgers University’s Newark Campus. It is free and open to the public.
Next year’s program entitled Beauty and the Black Body: History, Aesthetics, and Politics will examine how the presence and persistence of African Americans in the United States have challenged and reshaped notions of beauty, especially in the realms of art, popular culture, and photography. Deborah Willis, professor of photography at New York University, will give The Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Saturday morning, in conjunction with her current exhibition Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present. Richard Powell from Duke University, whose research examines race and representation in the African diaspora, will comment on Professor Willis’ lecture.
At the time of the MTW conference, Posing Beauty will be on display at The Newark Museum, located within the footprint of the Rutgers-Newark campus. Immediately following the MTW conference, the audience is invited to attend a free reception at The Newark Museum to view the Posing Beauty exhibition and enjoy live musical entertainment by The Bradford Hayes Trio.
The MTW afternoon session features three distinguished speakers who will further examine the theme of Beauty and the Black Body from their perspectives: Professor Maxine Craig from the University of California at Davis who will draw on her scholarship in the field of gender and race studies; Professor Tiffany Gill, from the University of Texas, Austin, whose scholarship looks at the emergence and importance of the black beauty industry in modern African American life and politics; and Dr. Okwui Enwezor, an internationally preeminent scholar, art critic and curator of African art.
During a special presentation, Dr. Marc Mappen, historian and former executive director of the New Jersey Historical Commission, will receive the second Marion Thompson Wright Award in recognition of his steadfast support, and the Commission’s co-sponsorship, of the Series since its inception. The inaugural award was presented to Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution, in 2007.
The lecture series was co-founded in 1981 by Dr. Clement Price, Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of History at Rutgers University, and the late Giles R. Wright, from the New Jersey Historical Commission. Over the past 30 years, the conference has drawn thousands of people to the Rutgers-Newark campus, and has attracted some of the nation’s foremost scholars and humanists who are experts in the field of African and African American history and culture. It has become one of the nation's leading scholarly programs specifically devoted to enhancing the historical literacy of an intercultural community.
“The Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series is a civic ritual without peer,” according to Dr. Price. “It is also a prominent symbol of civic engagement, public scholarship at a very high level, and community endearment to lifelong learning.”
The annual conference was named for East Orange native Dr. Marion Thompson Wright, a pioneer in African American historiography and race relations in New Jersey, who served for many years on the faculty of Howard University. An honors graduate of Newark’s Barringer High School and Columbia University’s Teachers College Class of 1938, she was the first professionally trained woman historian in the United States.
The Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series is sponsored by the Rutgers Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience, the Federated Department of History, Rutgers-Newark and the New Jersey Institute of Technology; and the New Jersey Historical Commission/Department of State. The 2011 conference receives additional support from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and the Rutgers Committee to Advance Our Common Purposes.