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Award-Winning Author Offers History Lesson During Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation Address

January 22, 2013  
 Filed in Community, Events

josephSpringfield, Ohio – It has been 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. authored his famed letter from a Birmingham jail, and it has been 150 years since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. It was appropriate then that the 2013 Wittenberg Series-sponsored Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Convocation turned into a history lesson for the large crowd assembled in historic Weaver Chapel.

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The keynote speaker for the annual event was award-winning author and Tufts University Professor of History Peniel Joseph. He educated the audience on what he called the “heroic period of the civil rights movement” in a speech titled “The Great Wells of Democracy: Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, and the Civil Rights Movement’s Heroic Years.”

Joseph paid respect to King, one of the foremost civil rights leaders in American history, by noting that the struggle for equality continues in 2013, even on the very same day that the nation’s first African-American president is sworn in for a second term. President Barack Obama is a “profoundly important figure,” Joseph noted, but many of the societal ills that King fought against in the 1960s remain prevalent a half-century later.

“The materialism, the militarism, and the racism that Dr. King spoke out against so eloquently, so articulately and with so much passion have not subsided since his death,” Joseph said, citing several things as evidence, including the fact that more African-Americans are in jail today than ever before.

Joseph is the author of the award-winning Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America and Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama as well as editor of The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era and Neighborhood Rebels: Black Power at the Local Level. Joseph also is the founder of a growing sub-field in American History and Africana Studies that he has characterized as “Black Power Studies,” which is actively re-writing post-war American and African American History as well as related interdisciplinary fields of Africana Studies, law and society, sociology, political science, Women’s and Ethnic Studies, philosophy, anthropology, literary studies and American Studies, among others.

The recipient of fellowships from Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Ford Foundation, Joseph’s essays have appeared in The Journal of American History, The Chronicle Review, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Book Forum and The American Historical Review.

Joseph was introduced by Moses Mbeseha, class of 2013 from State College, Pa., after a performance by IMANI, Wittenberg’s Gospel Choir, directed by Kent Brooks.

Established prior to the 1989-90 school year, the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Convocation features an academic procession with faculty in full regalia and as all Wittenberg Series events, is free and open to the public.

Now in its 30th year, the Wittenberg Series brings distinguished lecturers and performing artists of national and international prominence to the Wittenberg campus and Springfield community. To make special arrangements, reserve a Series poster, or become a friend of the Wittenberg Series, contact Jeannine Fox at 937-206-3539 or via email at

Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photo By: Erin Pence


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