For release: March 17, 2009
For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901/678-2843
The historic election of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency and the implications
of that event for the nation are the subjects of a major conference sponsored by the
Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis. The Obama Phenomenon: Race and Political Discourse in the United States Today will convene April 3-4 on the U of M campus.
Scholars from around the nation will explore expressions of thought and public reaction
to persons and events associated with Obama’s candidacy, including media images of
Barack and Michelle Obama, the potential impact on minorities of Obama’s proposed
public policy agenda, the use of Islamophobia against Obama, the question of the “post-racial
society,” and interpretations of the Obama candidacy by critical race theorists.
On Friday, April 3 at 6 p.m., the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. will give the conference’s
keynote address. Wright is pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ in
Chicago. He was Obama's pastor for more than 20 years, presiding over the Obamas'
wedding and the baptisms of their daughters. Barack Obama has publicly credited his
own conversion to Christianity to the Rev. Dr. Wright. Although Wright was well known
in Chicago for decades because of his involvement with South Side community enrichment
projects, he gained national attention when excerpts from some of his sermons were
reported in the media during the presidential election.
On Saturday, April 4 at 4 p.m., Ronald S. Sullivan will deliver a plenary address.
Director of Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute, Sullivan was the chair
of candidate Obama’s Criminal Justice Policy and National Legal Advisory Group and
was an advisor to the United States Department of Justice Transition Team. He will
discuss the reception of Obama's candidacy, specifically addressing those who questioned
whether Obama was “black enough.”
“The facts and events of this election impacted not only the United States, but reverberated
around the world,” said Daphene R. McFerren, director of the Hooks Institute. Just
as the ascendency of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency of the United States and his
personal and political views on slavery continue to be examined today, scholars for
generations to come will scrutinize the political, racial, and other issues that played
out in President Obama’s election.
“While it remains to be seen if President Obama’s election increases the field of
minority candidates for political office and the outcome of his administration policies,
there is no denying the fact that his election represents a profound shift in how
people will view the significance of race. In this respect, like the campaigns and
election of presidents Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Baines Johnson,
President Obama’s campaign and election have coincided with an intense self-examination
of how we as a nation will allow race to shape our identities, institutions, and democratic
principles. This conference seeks to undertake an in-depth examination of the facts
and circumstances surrounding the election of President Obama because of its significance
to our nation’s and world’s history.”
All conference proceedings will take place at the Michael D. Rose Theatre Lecture
Hall. All events are free and open to the public on a first come-first served basis.
If, as expected, capacity crowds attend the Rev. Dr. Wright’s speech or other conference
events, once the Theatre is filled, then no more people will be admitted.
A full schedule of conference events is available on the Hooks Institute’s Web site:
NOTE TO EDITORS: NO media interviews will be available with the Rev. Dr. Wright.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Photographers and videographers will be allowed to shoot photos
and video of Dr. Wright’s address only from an area that will be specially designated
for press. That area will be clearly marked by signage. Thank you for your cooperation.