Thursday, April 16, 2009

New Civil Rights Institute Opens at Emory University

The James Weldon Johnson Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies at Emory University was officially launched recently with a reception at the university. Named for James Weldon Johnson, author, composer, educator, lawyer, diplomat, and pioneering leader in the modern civil rights movement, the Johnson Institute is the first institute at Emory University established to honor the achievements of an American of African descent. Through its sponsored research and public programming, the Johnson Institute is one site within Emory University where members of the Emory community are challenged to reflect upon and examine the shifting, complex meaning of race and difference in history, culture and civil society in both a national and global context.

The mission of the Johnson Institute is to foster new scholarship, teaching, and public dialogue that focuses upon the origins, evolution, and legacy of the modern civil rights movement from 1905 to the present and its points of intersection with other social movements such as the Women’s Movement, the Gay and Lesbian Movement and the Human Rights Movement.

The Johnson Institute is also the home of the Alice Walker Literary Society. This author society is a collaborative project between Emory University and Spelman College. The papers of Alice Walker, the prize-winning novelist and activist, are part of the African American Collection of the Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL) of Emory University. The first public exhibition of papers and other memorabilia from the extraordinary archives of Georgia-born Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker will open at Emory University Thursday, April 23.

The institute is under the direction of Rudolph P. Byrd, the Goodrich C. White Professor of American Studies at Emory. A graduate of Lewis & Clark College, Professor Byrd earned a Ph.D. at Yale University. He has been on the Emory University faculty since 1991. Previously he taught at the University of Delaware and Grinnell College. He is currently writing a biography of Ernest J. Gaines.

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