Conversations with Sheila: Black History Symposium

February 2014

February 2014

Welcome back to campus from your various travels! For those of you who were here for J-Term, I hope it was a really good experience. I teach during J-Term and I love connecting with students so I always have a good time despite the cold weather.

Spring is just around the corner! The next big Luther Diversity Center project is the 11th Annual Black History Symposium. The symposium titled Sport, Media, and Race, is scheduled for February 19 and 20 in the CRH and explores how stereotypes about the natural ability of black athletes can be used by the sport media. 

David Epstein, best-selling author of The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, Douglas Hartmann, sport sociologist, and a distinguished Respondents panel discuss this topic.

Ian Cartens an Art Theory and Criticism major at Luther College is curating an art exhibition for the Symposium. The exhibit explores intersections between sport and race that exist within contemporary American culture. The exhibit features the work of Luther students Brian Nnaoji, Jenna McGee, Jacob “LeRoy” Smith and Decorah artist, Tom Sheppard. Athletes, coaches, artists, and media representatives will all offer their perspectives on the symposium topic in the form of photographic, painting and mixed media works.

A special chapel honoring Wilma Rudolph, the first woman to win three goal metals at the 1960 Olympics, is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. in the CRH. Benny Boyd, the former defensive coach for Luther football will speak about faith and sport.

David Epstein’s talk titled Dangerous Dichotomies: Nature versus Nurture and Athleticism versus Intellect begins at 7:00 p.m. on February 19 in the CFL. Douglas Hartmann’s talk titled Race, Sport, and Media: Lessons from the 1968 Olympics, Rush Limbaugh and Bill Clinton and Midnight Basketball at 9:40 a.m. on February 20 in the CRH.

A Respondent Panel designed to explore the themes presented in the lectures from the perspectives of media scholars and the professionals in media and athletics features Thomas C. Johnson, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Benny Boyd, former Luther football coach, and Emerald Jane Hunter, Luther alumna and Emmy-winning media producer. The panel will be held in the CRH on February 20 at 2:15 p.m.

An agenda is available at  or contact Sheila Radford-Hill at the Diversity Center, for more information.

Sport, Media and Race explores the popular perception that when it comes to athletics, genes and cultural background predict the relative advantages and disadvantages that athletics have in particular sports. The work of sport researchers, cultural theorists, and investigative journalists complicates this perception.  Explore this research and the stories of athletes and media professionals. Is there a race code in sport that reinforces simplistic explanations for black athletic ability? Is the stereotype of natural ability for black athletics exploited by sport media, and if so, how? Do the media portray athletic and intellectual excellence as mutually exclusive? Join us at the symposium and find out.