The College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina will welcome Angela Y. Davis as guest speaker for the 2022 Robert Smalls Annual Lecture.
Davis will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 21, at the Pastides Alumni Center in Columbia, S.C. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.
For more than half a century, Davis has been deeply involved in social justice movements surrounding economics, race and gender. She taught for 15 years at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she is distinguished professor emerita in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies departments.
Carolina Distinguished Professor Nikky Finney will join Davis to discuss Davis’ experiences as an activist and educator and her perspectives on navigating today’s social and political landscapes. Finney is an award-winning poet and professor of creative writing and southern letters in the Department of English Language and Literature and the African American Studies Program.
"We're proud to host Angela Davis for this capstone event in our celebration of the African American Studies Program," says Joel Samuels, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "This conversation is an opportunity to reflect on the past 50 years, consider the present moment and set the stage for us to think about the next 50 years and the roles each of us plays in our society."
The lecture is the culmination of a year-long celebration of the African American Studies program’s 50th anniversary . The university established the program in 1971 to shine a light on African American experiences throughout history and to further the university’s commitment to social equity and civil discourse.
“The Annual Robert Smalls lecture is the culmination of what has truly been a Sankofa year for us,” Director of the African American Studies Program, Qiana Whitted, says, referencing the Bono Adinkra symbol of a bird reaching back for its egg as its feet face forward. “This symbol encourages us to look back and connect the collective history of African American Studies at UofSC with a future that centers the work of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
“The conversation between Angela Davis and Nikky Finney will help to mark the occasion in a powerful way, and our program is hopeful that her visit will challenge us to think carefully about issues of power and social justice.”
About the speakers
Angela Y. Davis is an activist and scholar who has been deeply involved in social justice movements surrounding economics, race and gender. She taught for 15 years at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she is Distinguished Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies departments. Davis has written 10 books including Abolition Democracy; Are Prisons Obsolete?; and two books of essays entitled The Meaning of Freedom and Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Her most recent books include a re-issue of Angela Davis: An Autobiography and Abolition. Feminism. Now., with co-authors Gina Dent, Erica Meiners and Beth Richie. Davis is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to the dismantling of the prison industrial complex, a notion she helped popularize.
Nikky Finney is a John H. Bennett, Jr. Endowed Professor of Creative Writing and Southern Letters in the Department of English Language and Literature and the African American Studies Program at the University of South Carolina. Finney was born in coastal South Carolina and came up during the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Arts Movements. She is the author of On Wings Made of Gauze; Rice; The World Is Round; and Head Off & Split, which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011. Her new collection of poems, Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry, was released in 2020 from TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press.
About the event
The African American Studies program started the Robert Smalls Annual Lecture in 1997 to host important discussions and connect with South Carolina’s history. Major-General Robert Smalls served during the Civil War and was the first African American captain of a United States vessel. After the war, Smalls became a powerful political presence in South Carolina, serving in four Congressional sessions. In 2007 he became the first African American to have a U.S. Army vessel commissioned in his honor, the USAV Maj. General Robert Smalls.
This story was updated on April 18, 2022, to reflect a new location for the event.