Black college students and social justice, then and now


In conjunction with NC State’s Common Reading selection of Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, the NCSU Libraries and NC State’s Black Alumni Society co-present a panel discussion about the issues and experiences of college students, particularly African-American students. Free and open to the public, the event takes place in the Hunt Library’s Teaching and Visualization Lab (4th floor) on Thursday, Sept. 7 from 7-8 p.m.

The panel features notable scholars from area institutions: Dr. Blair LM Kelley (NC State), Dr. Mark Anthony Neal (Duke University), Dr. Yaba Blay (North Carolina Central University), and Professor Natalie Bullock Brown (St. Augustine’s University).

“If students have read Coates’ book, they know something about his feelings about Howard University and the HBCU experience,” Kelley says. “There’s controversy around whether it’s best for black students to be in primarily white-serving institutions or historically black institutions, and where the best impact can be felt. So it’s an opportunity to put a longer history, and different stories, around that.”

Kelley anticipates questions about current issues such as the status of Confederate monuments and more general racial conflict in the country. She’s interested in hearing what students have to say, and in helping place those concerns within a historical context.

“It will be interesting to hear both what students are experiencing now and some of the universal concerns that have always been present in the educational journey for black students in this country,” she says.

“I hope to complicate the idea that this is necessarily a unique moment. There are other flashpoints over the last few years, like the murder of Trayvon Martin, that really changed the conversation for this generation of college students. And there’s a larger sweep of contestation of things that have been tolerated by previous generations. It’s important to grapple with the history that surrounds us and is always present. Previous generations have had to tolerate those kinds of things; this generation is choosing not to.”

Members of the Black Alumni Society can join other alumni for a special pre-program tour of the Hunt Library from 6-7 p.m. Register for the tour and join the society here.

The NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center will bring a show and tell of items highlighting African American student life at NC State to view outside of the Teaching & Visualization Lab before the screening, from 6:30-7 p.m.

“I'm really excited that the Libraries is bringing people from around the Triangle and from different kinds of institutions,” Kelley says. “These amazing scholars are forerunners in the field who are all doing great public work that impacts our community and the world. I really hope that folks take notice and connect to it. It’s a star-studded panel of great scholars, and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”