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English Department Events & Activities

'When Sorrows Come: A Symposium on Death and Dying in African-American Culture'

WhenSorrowsComeWhen: Saturday, Feb. 21 | 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Where: Spelman College, Albro-Falconer-Manley Science Center, NASA Auditorium

GPS Address: 440 Westview Drive, Atlanta 30310

Fifty years since the day Malcolm X was assassinated, Spelman College will host a symposium addressing the contemptuous and deadly disregard for Black life evident across the social, political, and cultural landscape in the United States since this time.

This program will reflect upon this 50-year timeline of state sanctioned and prosaic forms of deadly contempt for Black life in the United States.

Symposium Speakers Include:

(Click the name to view details.)

  • Scholar, Karla FC Holloway
  • President of South-View Cemetery, Winifred Watts Hemphill
  • Filmmaker, Christine Turner
  • Novelist, Ravi Howard

Why Here? Why Now?

In this video, Spelman College assistant professor of English Michelle S. Hite, Ph.D., discusses Malcolm X, death and dying in African-American culture, why Black lives matter, and thoughts for symposium guests to consider.  

In heaping praise on the recently released film, "Selma," many film critics have noted its timeliness in light of the numerous cases of brutality and lethal violence directed towards unarmed Black American men and women, boys and girls by both police officers and average citizens. 

While we are 50 years beyond Selma, one has to ask, “When wouldn’t there have been a point in American history when the brutality, savagery, and callous disregard for Black life would not have occasioned a timely discussion?”

While it has been more than 50-years since James Baldwin’s wrote the essay, “My Dungeon Shook: A Letter to my Nephew on the Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation,” his text is far from antiquated. 

Writing to his namesake, Baldwin offers his reading of the racist country his nephew has entered: “You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being.” 

The language of value continuing to haunt the four-hour spectacle of Michael Brown’s dead body along with the failures to indict or punish the killers of Trayvon Martin, Aiyana Jones, or Eric Garner supports Baldwin’s earlier appraisal of the importance of black life in the United States. 

The symposium, sponsored by the Department of English with support from the Social Justice Fellows Program, the Office of the Provost, College Relations and the Dean’s Office, is free and open to the public.