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Rhodes’ Communities in Conversation Presents “Celebrating Ida B. Wells at 150”

Publication Date: 10/25/2012

Rhodes′ Communities in Conversation will present a series of events Oct. 29 and Oct. 30 titled “Celebrating Ida B. Wells at 150.” Wells (1862-1931) came of age in Memphis, moving to the city in 1880. In 1892, she was forced to flee Memphis for her anti-lynching journalism. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of this civil rights pioneer and anti-lynching activist.

Free and open to the public, all events take place on the Rhodes campus.

On Monday, Oct. 29, at 5 p.m., the celebration begins with Mayor A C Wharton christening the Memphis Center and publically opening this major new institution on campus. The Memphis Center will act as the umbrella for all Rhodes programs that work within the Memphis community and research its history, including the Crossroads to Freedom Digital Archive, which collects documents and oral histories of those in Memphis. A reception will follow in the Memphis Center which is located in Barret Library.

At 6:30 p.m. in the Bryan Campus Life Center, there will be a public reception followed by Paula Giddings’ keynote address titled, “A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching.” Giddings, professor of African-American Studies at Smith College, is author of Ida: A Sword Among Lions, the definitive prize-winning biography of the anti-lynching activist.

On Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 4 p.m. in Blount Auditorium, Amy Wood, associate professor of history at Illinois State University, will present “Lynching and Spectacle: Ida B. Wells, Anti-Lynching Activism, and the Use of Photography as Testimony.” Her lecture will explore how lynching was not a backwoods phenomenon, but rather a huge public spectacle, announced in the newspaper, where victims were ritually murdered, publically displayed and photographed. These images were used in postcards and widely disseminated. Wood will examine the use of lynching photography by both those involved in the lynching and by anti-lynching advocates. A reception will follow in the Buckman Hall Lobby.

At 6 p.m. in Hardie Auditorium is the debut of an originally produced one-act play and musical tribute titled “Iola.” Created by Rychetta Watkins and Dave Mason, the piece draws on Wells’ writing to create an emotional portrait of her Memphis years. The theatrical piece will be performed by Watkins and include music created by Emmanuel John-Teye and John Bass under the auspices of the Mike Curb Institute for Music. This event will conclude Rhodes’ celebration.

The Rhodes commemoration is the cornerstone of a citywide memorial to Wells’ life and legacy. It is bracketed by an exhibition currently on display in the Pink Palace Museum, “Women of Strength, Women of Color,” which focuses on African American women who had a lasting impact on Memphis. The 14th Annual Graduate Association of African American History Conference is Oct. 31-Nov. 2 at The University of Memphis. This year’s keynote speaker is Deborah Gray White, a leading scholar of African American women’s history whose talk is titled “Brown Sugar Melts: African American Women at the Turn of the Millennium.” The conversation continues with the Sixth Annual Ida B. Wells Philosophy Conference at The University of Memphis Nov. 16-17.


Beginning its second year at Rhodes, Communities in Conversation provides a forum for dialogue on a variety of topics in the humanities and current affairs. For more information, contact Dr. Jonathan Judaken, the Spence L. Wilson Chair in Humanities at Rhodes, at (901) 843-3292 or judakenj@rhodes.edu or visit Facebook.com/Communities.in.Conversation

Tags: Campus Life, Events


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