The Donia Human Rights Center, housed in the International Institute at the University of Michigan, presents a lecture by Khalil Gibran Muhammad, professor of History, Race and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies.

Muhammad’s lecture, “The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and Modern Urban America,” takes place on Wednesday, January 22, at 4:00 pm in Weiser Hall, room 1010, 500 Church Street, Ann Arbor. This event is free and open to the public.

The history of racism in the South is well known—the chain gangs, lynch mobs and views of black southern criminals that defined the Jim Crow period are, for the most part, common knowledge today. But what do we know about the role the urban North played in shaping views on the intersection of race and crime in American society?

In this talk, Muhammad reveals how the idea of black criminality was crucial to the making of modern urban America, as were African Americans’ own ideas about race and crime. In the North, crime statistics, immigration trends, and references to America as the “land of opportunity” were woven into a cautionary tale about the threat Black people posed to modern urban society. Excessive arrest rates and overrepresentation in Northern prisons were pointed to by whites—liberals and conservatives alike—as proof of Blacks’ inferiority. The prevailing feeling was that, in the heyday of “separate but equal,” what else but pathology could explain Black people’s challenges in the “land of opportunity”?

Chronicling the beginning of the deeply embedded notion of Black people as a dangerous race of criminals, Muhammed explores a different side of the history of racism, weaving a narrative that is both engaging and educational.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the African Studies Center, and is a part of the university-wide Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium 2020 that takes place annually during the month of January.