Colson Whitehead, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for his novel “The Underground Railroad,” will give the keynote address Monday, Feb. 12, as part of the University of Idaho’s Black History Month observance.
Whitehead’s talk, “Revisiting the Underground Railroad,” will begin at 7 p.m. Feb. 12 in the International Ballroom of the Bruce M. Pitman Center, 709 Deakin Ave., Moscow. A question-and-answer session and book signing will follow. The event is free.
“We are thrilled that Mr. Whitehead will illuminate themes of his remarkable book for our students, faculty and community members,” said Kenton Bird, a faculty member in the U of I School of Journalism and Mass Media who is helping to organize the author’s visit. The talk is supported by the Idaho Humanities Council and several university offices and academic departments.
“The Underground Railroad” chronicles the adventures of Cora, a teenage slave, as she seeks freedom in the South in the years before the Civil War. Historically, the Underground Railroad was a network of safehouses used to help slaves escape to freedom in the northern states and Canada. In Whitehead’s novel, engineers and conductors operate a secret system of underground tracks and tunnels for this purpose.
A panel of U of I faculty members will put the book into context during a discussion on “The Underground Railroad in Law, History, Literature and American Society,” at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, in the College of Law courtroom, 711 S. Rayburn St. The panel consists of Kristin Haltinner, assistant professor of sociology and director of U of I’s minor in Africana studies; Dale Graden, professor of history; Jan Johnson, clinical assistant professor of English, and Aman McLeod, assistant professor of political science and affiliate faculty in the College of Law.
In addition to “The Underground Railroad,” Whitehead is the author of “The Noble Hustle,” “Zone One,” “Sag Harbor,” “The Intuitionist,” “Apex Hides the Hurt” and “John Henry Days,” which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A resident of New York City, Whitehead has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has taught at the University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, New York University, Princeton University, Wesleyan University, and been a writer-in-residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond and the University of Wyoming.
Whitehead’s lecture is sponsored by the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, the Runstad Lecture Series, the Office of Equity and Diversity, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the School of Journalism and Mass Media, the departments of English, History and Sociology and Anthropology in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, and the Latah County Human Rights Task Force. His lecture is made possible by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, the state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Additional events during Black History Month at U of I are listed athttps://www.uidaho.edu/diversity/dhr/oma/events/black-history.