The 41st Annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series, One Begins Again: Organizing & the Historical Imagination, will be online on Saturday, February 20, 2021 at 9:30am.
The conference is presented by the Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience. You can register here.
Joining WBGO Journal host Doug Doyle is Director of the Institute, historian, curator, writer and professor Jack Tchen and two orginal members of the Marion Thompson Wright Study Club, former Director of Planning for the City of Petersburg, Virginia Leonard Muse and Seton Hall Professor of History Larry Greene.
This year's MTW conference wil moderated by Barbara Ransby.
Alicia Garza, Bill Fletcher Jr., and Cara Page, each in important ways, speak about organizing as a means to healing generations of society-wide injustice.
Professor Tchen says the coronavirus pandemic has prompted his staff to change its approach to this year's conference.
"With it being virtual we have a chance of going over the capacity of that room that we're usually in, which is about 400 to 450 people. So this year we hope to double that and to get to people around the country in a way that we haven't been able to."
This year's theme is One Begins Again: Organizing and the Historical Imagination. With that in mind, Tchen says the conference is very timely.
"It really is about this moment that we're in of COVID, but also a moment that we're seeing the deep historial injustices that have continued to ramify and resonate our society because of those issues. So we're really trying to hit that both in terms of how the past constitutes the present, the crisis we're in, in terms of the present, and then also what we can begin to imagine in terms of rebuilding the future."
The MTW series was co-founded in 1981 by Rutgers University-Newark Professor Clement A. Price and Giles Wright of the New jersey Historical Comissio who launched the series with the belief that the rigorous exploriation of the past, made accessible to a broad public of learners, would help guide the nation into a brighter future.
Leonard Muse was a childhood friend of the late Dr. Price. He shared many memories of their time together. Muse says he's very proud of the MTW's growth and impact over the years. Muse, who has worked in several administration and senior managerial capacities for local government over the past 30 years, admits he didn't necessarily expect the conference to reach such heights.
"Not the idea of the magnitude, but certainly a confidence over the years in Clement and in Giles who were determined that this would be scholarship but also a premier academic conference and a premier expression of public history and public intellectualism."
The conference is named in honor of a native of East Orange, New Jersey. Marion Thompson Wright was arguably the first black female professional historian and a pioneer in Black New Jersey historiography.
Long-time Seton Hall University Professor Larry Greene also remembers those early planning days of the MTW conference and why it was named after Thompson Wright.
"One of the things since Giles, Clem and I were all involved in New Jersey African American History, we all came across her work, her articles that appeared in the Journal of Negro History (now known as The Journal of African American History ) and other places. Her work was foundational."
Greene also talked about how today's events are creative deep and thoughtful discussions about race and politics.
Professor Tchen says he's extremely proud of the poster for this year's conference that was made by Rutgers University-Newark arts student Luis Reyes.
"Luis is one of our amazing students. We were looking around for someone to capture what it means to be organizing and what this moment is and kind of the sense of the history of the Black Power fist. But also a sense of the dynamism of how the meaning of that gesture is morphing as we speak. So we wanted to pay respects to that moment but also update it. We're very happy. People will be able to get a copy of the poster and the postcard which we designed as a keepsake. If people are interested in one, just let us know."
Click at the top of the page to hear the entire interview. You can also see the chat here.