Lamar Lectures to explore 19th century African American histories

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Profile of woman sitting in audience writing in a notebook and other audience members

MACON — Dr. Heather Williams, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, will lead a series of lectures on the theme “Writing Histories of 19th Century African Americans” for Mercer University’s 66th annual Lamar Lecture Series, the most prominent lecture series on Southern history and culture in the U.S. 

“We are grateful to bring Dr. Williams to Mercer and Macon,” said Dr. Doug Thompson, associate professor of history and director of the Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies. “Her work in weaving narratives of enslaved persons’ experience within the slave economies but, more importantly, beyond those narrow constraints helps us understand the power and agency of individual people in the face of overwhelming systemic injustice in slavery and beyond.”

headshot of Dr. Heather Williams
Dr. Heather Williams

Dr. Williams’ research interests include nineteenth century African American history, history of slavery in the American South, Jamaican migrations and race in American history. She was previously a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and she received her B.A. and J.D. degrees from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University. She is the author of Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom (2005) and Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery (2012), both published by UNC Press, as well as American Slavery: A Very Short Introduction (2014), published by Oxford University Press.

The Lamar lectures are presented by Mercer’s Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies and will take place Oct. 2 and 3 in the Presidents Dining Room, located inside the University Center on the Macon campus. They are free and open to the public.

Dr. Heather Williams Lamar Lectures 2023 Schedule:

“A Modicum of Freedom: Maria Lea’s Life in 1840’s Mississippi”
Oct. 2 at 10 a.m.

“I Thought When I was Free, They Were Free: Claiming Children After Slavery”
Oct. 2 at 6 p.m.

“They Shall Be Deemed Husband and Wife: Legalizing African American Marriages After the Civil War”
Oct. 3 at 6 p.m.

The Lamar Lecture series, made possible through a bequest from the late Eugenia Dorothy Blount Lamar, began in 1957 and promotes the permanent preservation of Southern culture, history and literature. Speakers have included nationally and internationally known scholars, such as Cleanth Brooks, James C. Cobb, Trudier Harris, Fred Hobson, Eugene Genovese and Eric Sundquist. The University of Georgia Press publishes the lectures each year.

About the Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies

The Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies fosters critical discussions about the many meanings of the South. As the only center for Southern studies in the United States dedicated to the education and enrichment of undergraduate students, the Center’s primary purpose is to examine the region’s complex history and culture through courses, conversations and events that are open, honest and accessible. In addition to private gifts from donors, the Center is supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant.