New Common Reading theme brings many events to campus

Image from 'People of a Darker Hue'

When the UO’s Common Reading Program changed its 2020-21 theme to explore anti-racism, it created a multimedia opportunity for campus to learn more about Blackness, the Black experience and dismantling racism.

The new theme, “Listen. Learn. Act.,” allows participants to explore multiple perspectives, voices and historical contexts of Black thought and lived experience. To help with that, a number of events, programs, exhibitions and lectures centered on the theme of anti-racism are planned for the fall. Check out this list of some of them:


Listen to “1619,” a New York Times audio series hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones that examines the “long shadow of American slavery.”

Learn more about the 1619 Project from The New York Times Magazine. For more information, be sure to check out the 1619 resource guide for anti-racism teaching at the UO as well as a comprehensive list of anti-racism resources from the School of Journalism and Communication.


Sponsored by the UO Office of the President and the Division of Equity and Inclusion, the 2020-21 African American Workshop and Lecture Series kicks off Oct. 7 with award-winning sociologist Alondra Nelson, who will speak on “The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations and Reconciliation After the Genome.”

“Defending Democracy: A Conversation with Eric Holder, Jr., 82nd Attorney General of the United States (2009-2015)” is next up Oct. 20. Both the Holden and Nelson talks are sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics for its 20th anniversary celebration and are part of the African American Workshop and Lecture Series, which is sponsored by the Office of the President and the Division of Equity and Inclusion. They also part of the Lorwin Lectureship on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

On Nov. 18, Prairie View A&M University President Ruth Simmons, who will speak on “Civil Society’s Debt to Higher Education.”

Join Emmanuel Akyeampong, faculty director of the Harvard University Center for African Studies and professor of History and of African and African American studies at Harvard, on Dec. 1 for “African and African American Relations, c. 1960 to Recent Times: Transformations in Global Blackness.”

Winter/spring events in the series will include:

Jan 13: Khalil Gibran Muhammad, who will address “The Role of Antiracist Research in the Academy and Beyond.”

Feb. 9: Kimberly Johnson, author of “This Is My America,” speaking on “How Far do you Have to Go for Justice? Acting Beyond the Vote.”

Feb. 12: Lia Epperson, speaking on “UO Law School Derrick Bell Speaker Series.”

Mar. 2: Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, whose topic will be “The Empowered University: Shared Leadership, Culture change and Academic Success.”

Ebony Morgan, a registered nurse and crisis worker for Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets, known as CAHOOTS, is the first speaker of the 2020-21 UO BEseries. On Oct. 20 Morgan will discuss her work, which addresses the effects of socioeconomic inequalities and structural racism in public health and safety, and how the local CAHOOTS program has received national attention as a potential model for alternatives to policing in other cities.

The Labor Education and Research Center presents its fall webinar series, “The Intersection of Racial Justice and Worker Advocacy,” focusing on racial justice and systemic racism. On Oct. 14, Barbara Diamond, of Diamond Law, will speak on “Exploring Systemic Racism in Arbitration,” and on Oct. 21, Donna Hammond, with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48, will present “Toolbox Essentials for Creating Racial Justice.”

On Oct. 29, Ayana Omilade Flewellen, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of California, Riverside, and co-founder of the Society of Black Archaeologists, will discuss her research on the lives of enslaved Afro-Crucian people at a historic plantation site in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the training opportunities it is providing to local youth and students from historically Black colleges and universities in the U.S.

Professor Matt Sandler, a scholar of African American and American poetry and the author of “The Black Romantic Revolution: Abolitionist Poets at the End of Slavery,” will present a book talk and discussion Nov. 5. The director of the master’s degree program in American studies at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Sandler will discuss how Black writers used their art to advocate for emancipation during the battle over slavery in the U.S.

Join UO professor of Indigenous, race and ethnic studies Michael Hames-Garcia on Dec. 2 for “Ideas on Tap: Race, Policing and Barriers to Reform,” a virtual discussion on how current policy approaches fail to address the demands of activists and community organizers.

How can centuries of environmental exploitation and social injustice in the U.S. be unraveled? Robin Morris Collin, Norma Paulus Professor at Willamette University College of Law, will address that question Dec. 8 for the 2020-21 O’Fallon Lecture, “The Geography of Injustice and the Ecology of Reparations.” Collin’s lecture will explore the legacy of colonialism and how slavery and a pursuit of profit has discounted the value of people and places into commodities for exchange.

Looking ahead to 2021, Nikole Hannah-Jones, an award-winning journalist and writer for The New York Times Magazine’s “The 1619 Project,” will be the guest speaker at the annual UO School of Journalism and Communication’s Ruhl Lecture on Feb. 21. Hannah-Jones’ lecture, “1619 and the Legacy that Built a Nation,” explores ways to reassess longstanding narratives and remain vigilant, despite progress, in the fight against racial inequality.

Online exhibitions

Racing to Change: Oregon’s Civil Rights Years — the Eugene Story,” chronicles the civil rights movement during the 1960s and 1970s. Through photographs, recorded interviews and historical archives, the exhibit illuminates the legacies of racism and the efforts of Oregon’s Black communities to bring about change.

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art offers a number of videos that touch on the theme of racism through art, including:

UO Libraries

Untold Stories: The Hidden History of the University of Oregon,” a project by the UO Libraries Special Collections and Archives and the Digital Scholarship Center, features historical stories of underserved and underrepresented communities on the UO campus. Discover the history of Deady Hall; explore the accomplishments of Nellie Louise Franklin, the first African American woman to graduate from the UO; or learn about the legacy of Edwin Coleman, a Eugene community educator, musician and civil rights activist.

—By Sharleen Nelson, University Communications