Ibram X. Kendi Newsletter

January 19, 2021

Ibram X. Kendi

We are pleased to announce that Ibram X. Kendi will deliver the 2021 Fred D. Gray Plenary lecture in human and civil rights. A New York Times best-selling author, Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and the Founding Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research and the 2020-2021 Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. In 2020, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He is an Ideas Columnist for The Atlantic and in 2016, his book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, won the National Book award. One of his most recent books, a children's book titled Antiracist Baby, was released in June 2020. Kendi's How to Be an Antiracist, an international bestseller that has been translated in several languages made several Best Books of 2019 lists, was described as "the most courageous book to date on the problem of race in the Western mind." His most recent book, Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619 - 2019, co-edited with historian Keisha Blain, was released February 2, 2021.

Director's Comments

I returned late last night from another meaningful pilgrimage through Alabama with 50 civic and faith leaders from Columbia, TN. As is always the case in these experiences, time with Attorney Fred Gray in Tuskegee, the insightful and resilient champion for freedom, was "transformative."

You are aware that Attorney Gray was the legal representative for Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. You likely know that he successfully argued cases for civil rights before the Supreme Court, won the essential case that created the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and represented the victims of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

There is another, less well known but equally important, impact created by Attorney Gray. He was behind the scenes providing strategic counsel and resilient fidelity to the cause, "to destroy segregation wherever he found it." If there had been no Fred Gray the Montgomery bus boycott may not have occurred and the civil rights movement would have been absent its essential moral and legal compass. Thus, on a macro level, Fred Gray is not simply one of the most distinguished civil rights lawyers in our nation's history, his presence us pivotal to the movement's early and continued success.

This modest leader continues to live and practice law in Tuskegee and embodies the personal principles of racial healing while he fearlessly exposes pernicious racism wherever he finds it.

Attorney Gray is more than an essential figure from our past. He continues to speak before bar associations, on university campuses, and with religious and civic organizations. His lectures always reference our common history and reflect on the most current events to the end that we might create and live in a new and better future.

Thus, it remains a great honor that the CSC annually hosts the Fred Gray Plenary Lecture in Human and Civil Rights.

This year we are pleased that an emerging national leader in the conversation on race, Ibram X. Kendi, will deliver the fifth annual Fred Gray Plenary. I urge you to join us and engage the essential conversations that will result.