Prominent Author to Speak on Race, Slavery in America

Thursday, February 19, 2009

PHILADELPHIA (February 19, 2009)  – The annual Francis X. Gerrity Lecture at Saint Joseph's University, which features speakers on American history and biography, will be delivered this year by Ira Berlin, Ph.D., the Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Maryland, a specialist in the history of slavery in North America. His lecture, "Ancestors and Successors: Immigration – Forced and Free – and the Making of America," will be given on Thursday, Feb. 26 at 11:30 a.m. in the North Lounge of the Campion Student Center. Admission is free and open to the public.

Berlin has authored and edited numerous and essential award winning-books and articles on race, slavery, the American South, and related subjects. His work has fundamentally reoriented the way scholars and others see, approach and understand the origins, nature, functioning and meanings of race, slavery and freedom in America. His talk will focus on the forced immigration (enslavement) and migration of Africans and African Americans to and within America over the past four centuries. His recent studies have centered on this area, and he is currently writing a book on the subject.

Randall Miller, Ph.D., professor of history, said Berlin's work engages almost every major issue in trying to understand the dynamics and come to terms with the place race and slavery have in defining America.

"Among the many insights he has offered about Africans and African Americans, is that they were – and are – a people in motion, always adapting and creating their own identities, even when the harshest circumstances and cruelties threatened to overwhelm them," Miller said. "By following their stories, Berlin insists, we can discover what freedom and possibility really have meant, and now might mean, to and for all of us."

Berlin's best known book, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in Mainland North America, was the recipient of several awards including the Bancroft Prize for the best book in American history by Columbia University and the Frederick Douglass Prize by the Gilder-Lehrman Institute.

Berlin's talk will continue the tradition of the Francis X. Gerrity Lecture, which bears the name of a professor of history who taught at Saint Joseph's for many years. Through the endowment established by his family, the University is able to bring a major scholar to campus each year to speak on topics pertaining to history.

For more information contact Sue McFadden at 610-660-1740 or

Media Contact

Patricia Allen, Associate Director of University Communications, 610-660-3240,

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