West to give first Morrison Lectures, Oct. 20-21

Princeton scholar Cornel West will deliver the inaugural Toni Morrison Lectures, established in honor of the Nobel laureate and Princeton professor emerita, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20-21, in McCosh 50.

West, the Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion, will deliver a two-part lecture on "The Gifts of Black Folk in the Age of Terrorism" over the two days. West is one of the nation's most widely known and quoted public intellectuals on the topics of American society, race, politics and class issues. His 1993 bestseller, "Race Matters,'' was regarded as a groundbreaking examination of the impact of racism on America. His 2004 sequel, "Democracy Matters," called for a revitalization of America's democratic traditions in the post-Sept. 11 world.

Members of the news media who plan to attend should e-mail the Office of Communications at commpro@princeton.edu by noon Thursday, Oct. 19, stating if they plan to attend both parts of the lecture, or which day they plan to attend.

The Morrison Lectures, sponsored jointly by the Center for African American Studies and Princeton University Press, are intended to be an annual event. Princeton University Press will publish the lectures in book form.

"The lecture series is intended to spotlight new and exciting work of scholars and writers who have risen to positions of prominence both in the academy and in the broader world of letters," said Valerie Smith, director of the Center for African American Studies. "We and Professor Morrison feel that Cornel's capacious intelligence, profound commitments and compelling oratorical power combine to make him the perfect person to launch the series."

Smith noted that Eddie Glaude, an associate professor of religion, came up with the idea for the lecture series last year while he was serving as acting director of the then-Program in African American Studies. "My colleagues and I were wildly enthusiastic about the suggestion because it would allow us to create a dynamic and enduring tribute to Toni Morrison's expansive literary imagination, intellectual adventurousness and political insightfulness," Smith said.

Morrison, who joined the Princeton faculty in 1989, transferred to emerita status in July. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1993, becoming the first African-American winner and the first American woman to win since 1938. She also won the National Humanities Medal, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Award. The New York Times Book Review this spring named Morrison's "Beloved" the best work of American fiction published in the past quarter century.

The lectures are free and open to the public. Simulcasts will be offered in 28 and 46 McCosh. Members of the news media who choose not to reserve a seat by noon Thursday, Oct. 19, must view the lectures in the simulcast locations.