Luther College to host ninth annual Midwest Black History Conference Feb. 15-16

Jan. 18, 2012

Registration is now open for Luther College's ninth annual Midwest Black History Conference Feb. 15-16.

The conference is open to the public. Registration fee is $25. To register for the conference, visit

The conference, titled "Modern Blackness and the New Jim Crow(s)" commemorates the legacy of Malcom X. Keynote speaker will be Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness."

The conference includes presentations, panel discussions, a plenary lecture, book signing, and a gallery exhibit and reception. For full conference agenda, visit

The conference will begin with an opening presentation by Sheila Radford-Hill, executive director of the Luther Diversity Center, titled "Malcom X's Legacy: From Revolutionary to Modern Blackness" Wednesday, Feb. 15, 4 p.m. in the Center for Faith and Life Recital Hall.

The opening lecture will be followed by a panel discussion about incarceration and justice in the tri-state area featuring Jennifer Green, Luther assistant professor of sociology, correctional officers from the Wisconsin Corrections Department and a restorative justice advocate. The panel will be held Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in the Center for Faith and Life Recital Hall.

Michelle Alexander, associate professor of law at The Ohio State University, will present the plenary lecture based on her book and titled "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Center for Faith and Life Main Hall.

Alexander will be available to sign copies of her book following her presentation. Both the plenary lecture and book signing are open to the public with no charge for admission.

In her lecture, Alexander will discuss her view that the racial caste system in America did not disappear with the elimination of Jim Crow laws but has been redesigned as the criminal justice system. 

Alexander will counter the argument that America is in an "era of colorblindness" and argues that by targeting black men through the "War on Drugs" and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control.

According to Alexander, the old forms of discrimination are suddenly legal once someone is labeled a felon. She challenges everyone to place the issue of mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

Alexander, a longtime civil rights advocate and litigator, holds a joint appointment at OSU's Moritz College of Law and Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

She served for several years as the director of the Racial Justice Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which spearheaded the national campaign against racial profiling.

Alexander holds the bachelor of arts degree from Vanderbilt University and the juris doctor degree from Stanford Law School. Following law school, she served as a law clerk on the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice Harry Blackmun and for Chief Judge Abner Mikva on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Alexander's lecture is sponsored by the Luther Center for Ethics and Public Life and Luther Diversity Council.

The conference resumes Thursday, Feb. 16 with two panel discussions and the presentation "Language, Ideology and Disadvantage" by Rosina Lippi-Green, former professor of linguistics at Western Washington University, held at 11 a.m. in the Center for Faith and Life Recital Hall.

The student panel, "Buying and Selling the Body with Words," will be held Thursday at 9:40 a.m. in the Center for Faith and Life Recital Hall.

"Black English and Black History-True of False?" a panel with Frederick Douglas Dixon, professor of sociology at Kennedy King Community College, and Owen Mordaunt, professor of international studies and linguistics at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, will be held Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in the Center for Faith and Life Recital Hall.

A gallery talk and reception for artist Salah Mubarek's exhibit "Pursuit of the Spiritual" will be held Thursday, Feb. 16 at 4:30 p.m. in the Center for Faith and Life Gallery followed by the conference closing.

The symposium is a collaborative effort of the Luther Diversity Center and academic departments including Africana studies, art and history.

For more information regarding the Midwest Black History Conference, visit the website or call the Luther Diversity Center at (563) 387-1014.

Michelle Alexander