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April 15, 2003

Author Dr. Cornel West to Deliver Higginbotham Lecture at June Quarterly Meeting

Prior to his appointment at Princeton, West was the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor at Harvard University teaching in Afro-American Studies and Philosophy of Religion. He graduated from Harvard University magna cum laude, and earned his Ph.D. degree in philosophy from Princeton in 1980. In 1996, he was awarded the James Madison Medal, the highest honor Princeton bestows on graduate alumni.
West taught at Yale, Union Theological Seminary and Princeton University where he was chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies. He is an author of numerous articles and books including The Cornel West Reader, The African American Century and his breakthrough book, Race Matters, which was published in 1993. This book quickly achieved bestseller status and gained the attention of Time magazine and Newsweek, causing both publications to run extensive profile articles about West in June 1993. His book Keep Faith was also published in 1993. Jews and Blacks: Let the Healing Begin, a book co-written with Tikkum magazine editor Michael Lerner, was published in the spring of 1995.
West was born in Tulsa, OK, in 1953. His father was a civilian Air Force administrator, and his mother, an elementary school teacher, who would later become a principal. The West family moved a great deal and finally settled in a middle-class neighborhood in Sacramento, CA.
As a boy, West was greatly impressed by the Baptist church. He had been deeply touched by the stories of parishioners who, only two generations from slavery, told stories of blacks maintaining their religious faith during the most trying of times. He was equally attracted to the commitment of the Black Panthers, whose office was near his boyhood church. It was from the Panthers that West began to understand the importance of community-based political action. But it was a biography of President Theodore Roosevelt that West borrowed from a neighborhood bookmobile that would steer his academic future. West felt an affinity to Roosevelt, as both were asthmatics. He read how Roosevelt had overcome his asthma, went to Harvard and became a great speaker. So at 8 years old, even though he wasn't exactly sure what is was, West decided he would go to Harvard.
And so he did, graduating from Harvard magna cum laude in three years. Martin Kilson, one of West's professors, recalls him as "the most intelligently aggressive and highly cerebral student I have taught in my 30 years here."
West then went on to Princeton University, where he received his M.A. and his Ph.D., then went on to head the university's Department of Afro-American Studies. After successfully reviving that department, West moved to Harvard University where he served as professor of Afro-American Studies and Philosophy of Religion. Recently, he was the W.E.B. Du Bois Lecturer at Harvard. His speaking style, formed by roots in the Baptist church, blends drama, knowledge and inspiration.

Additional West book credits include: Prophesy Deliverance: An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity, Post-Analytic Philosophy, Prophetic Fragments, The American Evasion of Philosophy, The Ethical Dimensions of Marxist Thought, Breaking Bread, Prophetic Reflections and Prophetic Thought in Postmodern Times.

Previous Higginbotham lecturers are Marion Wright Edelman, Professor Charles Ogletree, Congressman Chaka Fattah and ABA President-Elect Dennis W. Archer.

Tickets to the luncheon are available through the Association or on its Web site at $40 for Association members and $45 for non-members.

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