Prof. Thomas Holt to reflect on teaching about race in 2012 Ryerson Lecture

Thomas Holt, an eminent scholar of African American history, will deliver this year’s Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8 at the Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall. The event is open to the public.

Holt, the James Westfall Thompson Distinguished Service Professor in History and the College, will discuss “Reflections on 40 Years of Teaching about Race,” tracing the evolving social and political context for studying and teaching about race, and racism between the optimism of the Civil Rights generation of scholars to the “post-racial” expectations of the Obama era.

Holt, who joined the faculty in 1987, has published a number of important books on race relations, including his study of Jamaica's economy, politics, and society after slavery, The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832-1938 (1992).

His first book, Black Over White: Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction (1979), examined the American South after emancipation.

In 2000, he published The Problem of Race in the 21st Century, which draws on his years of teaching and research to explore the future of race relations in America.

Holt was a fellow of both the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 1987 to 1988.

Holt also has held a number of fellowships, including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and another in the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

Holt received his PhD in 1973 from Yale University. Before coming to Chicago, he taught at Howard and Harvard universities and the University of Michigan.

The Ryerson Lectures began in 1972 with a bequest to the University by Nora and Edward L. Ryerson, a former chairman of the Board of Trustees. Ryerson then noted that the lecture should honor excellence in academic pursuits and the “high aspirations we hold for ourselves as a community of scholars.”

The faculty selects each Ryerson lecturer based on a consensus that a particular scholar has made research contributions of lasting significance. In return, the Ryerson lecturer is asked to reflect on his or her intellectual life and work.