James Weldon Johnson Memorial Lecture

Claude McKay standing at a lectern with people seated at a long table behind him

Every year, Beinecke Library, in collaboration with the Department of African American Studies, invites a distinguished scholar in African American Studies to give the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Lecture on a topic of their choosing. Typically, the lecture is held in the fall of each academic year. Past lecturers are listed below.

2012  Arnold Rampersad, “Reflections on Nationalism and Literature”
2013  Thadious Davis, “Chaining: Paradigmatic Space in African American Literature”
2014  Cheryl A. Wall, “Ralph Ellison and the Mystery of American Identity”
2015  Farah Jasmine Griffin, “In This Place: Space, Meaning and Possibility in the Writings of Toni Morrison”
2016  Robin D. G. Kelley, “Finding the Black Radical Tradition: The Education of Cedric J. Robinson”
2017  Brent Hayes Edwards, “Black Radicalism and the Archive”
2018  Jennifer DeVere Brody, On Edmonia Lewis
2019  Robert Reid-Pharr, “Archives and Icons: James Baldwin and the Practice of Celebrity”
2021 (spring)  Richard J. Powell, “Hurston’s Law, or, A Philosophy of Décor”
2023 (spring) Christina Sharpe, “What Could a Vessel Be?”
2023 (fall) Robin Coste Lewis, “Intimacy, Culture and the Photographic Image”

Above: Claude McKay delivering a lecture in the Throne Room at the Kremlin, Moscow, ca. 1923.