RIT Hosts Civil War Scholar, Frederick Douglass Biographer David Blight

Sept. 20 talk honors Douglass as part of 150th anniversary of the Civil War era

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The Frederick Douglass Lecture at RIT will be delivered Sept. 20 by Civil War historian David Blight.

The Battle of Bull Run, Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, and the fall of the Confederacy—lasting reminders of America’s Civil War past. As the home of celebrated abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Rochester played a key role in the nation’s affairs during the Civil War. In recognition of Douglass’ impact on the war and in honor of the 150th anniversary of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Rochester Institute of Technology is hosting one of the country’s premier Civil War scholars.

David Blight, professor of American history and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University, will speak at 7 p.m. Sept. 20 in RIT’s Golisano Hall auditorium, as this year’s Frederick Douglass lecturer. The event is free and open to the public, and a reception and book signing will follow. His talk is titled “Frederick Douglass: Person of the Year for 1862.”

In addition to publishing several articles and book reviews, Blight has written several books including American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era, A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Narratives of Emancipation and Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. He is writing a biography about Frederick Douglass that will be published in 2013. He has also been a consultant to several documentary films, including the 1998 PBS series Africans in America and The Reconstruction Era in 2004.

Blight has also been elected to the boards of museums and historical societies and as a member advisement team for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. After 9/11, he wrote the essay, “Will it Rise: September 11 in American Memory.”

The Frederick Douglass Lecture was inaugurated in 2003 by RIT’s Department of History to honor the life and accomplishments of Rochester resident and famed African-American reformer Frederick Douglass, who called the city home for nearly 20 years.

“The Douglass lecture highlights the importance of African-American history locally and nationally while also celebrating the spirit of reform that was so important to Douglass,” says Richard Newman, professor of history at RIT and organizer of the Douglass lecture. “This year, we are honored to host Professor David Blight, one of America’s great historians, who will discuss Douglass’ influence on Abraham Lincoln and the passage of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago on Sept. 22, 1862. This will be a great opportunity to shine the spotlight on Douglass as America’s ‘Person of the Year’ in 1862.”

This year’s Douglass lecture is co-sponsored by the Dean’s Office in RIT's College of Liberal Arts, RIT’s Conable Chair in International and Global Studies and RIT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion. For more information, contact Newman at rsngsm@rit.edu.