Political activist and historian Barbara Ransby will hold an open campus and Ithaca community conversation on “‘Black Lives Matter,’ Past and Present: Ella Baker’s Legacy and the Implications for 21st Century Activism,” Wednesday, April 8, at 4:30 p.m. in the Africana Studies and Research Center, 310 Triphammer Road. Ransby will be on campus as the Cornell history department’s Carl Becker lecturer.
Ransby’s book, “Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision,” is the definitive biography of Baker, a grassroots organizer whose activism spanned 50 years. Baker shunned the spotlight in favor of behind-the-scenes work that powered the black freedom struggle, and her story is relevant to today’s struggles, said Margaret Washington, professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences, who organized Ransby’s visit.
“History is a powerful tool for social justice activities, not because it offers us a blueprint for change, but because it reminds us that ordinary people, acting together, have the power to create a more just society,” writes Ransby, professor of history at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and director of its campuswide Social Justice Initiative.
Ransby will deliver two additional lectures as Carl Becker lecturer: “Are you a Biographer or an Historian? Radical Life Narrative Changing 20th Century Historiography,” Monday, April 6; and “Can History Change the Future? The Struggle Over Public History and the Uses of Memory,” Tuesday, April 7. Both lectures will be at 4:30 p.m. in Lewis Auditorium, G76 Goldwin Smith Hall, and are free and open to the public.
“Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson” is Ransby’s most recent book. Ransby also has published dozens of articles and essays and serves on numerous editorial boards in the U.S. and the UK. She is editor-in-chief of Souls, a Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society.
The Becker Lectures in History series is the most important event sponsored by the Department of History. Now in its third decade, the series brings distinguished historians from all areas of specialization to Cornell each year. It is named for Carl Becker, who taught at Cornell from 1917 until 1941, when he became the university’s official historian.