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Thomas Sugrue, author, historian, educator to be keynote speaker Feb. 27 at Wayne State University's Richard C. Van Dusen Forum on Urban Issues

February 4, 2009
Thomas Sugrue, author of Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North, will deliver the keynote presentation at the Richard C. Van Dusen Forum on Urban Issues at 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 27. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be in the WSU Law School's Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium, 471 West Palmer, Detroit. A book sale and signing will follow.

Sweet Land of Liberty chronicles the struggle for racial equality from Illinois to Detroit and New York, and shows how the northern struggle differed from the fight in the south. Sugrue's book covers the time period of the 1920s to the present, detailing the struggles against Jim Crow schools; racial conflict in northern cities and suburbs; and the histories of integration and black power.

"Professor Sugrue's Sweet Land of Liberty will fundamentally revise the way we think about the civil rights movement," said Curtis Blessing, member of the Richard C. Van Dusen Endowment Board. "While the television images of Montgomery and Selma have become iconic in American culture, the long, hard struggle to combat and weaken the hold of a pervasive American racism wherever possible must be viewed as a historical continuity in north and south. This is history at its best: history reclaimed."

Sugrue's earlier book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit was selected in 2005 by Princeton University Press as one of its 100 most influential books of the past 100 years. Sugrue explains in this work how Detroit and many other once prosperous industrial cities have become the sites of racialized poverty. Once called America's "arsenal of democracy," Sugrue contends that Detroit over the last 50 years has become the symbol of the American urban crisis.

Sugrue, the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, is writing another book titled The End of Race? Barack Obama as History.

Outside the classroom, Sugrue combines scholarly research and civic engagement. A longtime resident of Philadelphia, Penn., Sugrue is co-chair of the board of directors of the Bread and Roses Community Fund, a foundation that supports grassroots organizations working for racial and economic equality.

Sponsored by The Richard C. Van Dusen Endowment, the Van Dusen Forum is named for the late Richard C. Van Dusen, a prominent Detroit attorney who made a lifetime commitment to improving urban communities. Among his many accomplishments, Van Dusen was undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a member of the Michigan House of Representatives, and chaired the Detroit Regional Chamber. He also was a member of Wayne State University Board of Governors.

Reservations for the Richard C. Van Dusen Forum on Urban Issues lectures are required by Feb. 20. Fax your RSVP to (313) 577-8800 or e-mail ak7579@wayne.edu. Parking for the Feb. 27 event is $3.50 in Structure #1 on Palmer Street at Cass Avenue.

The Richard C. Van Dusen Forum on Urban Issues will also be hosting a lecture by Sugrue for students from Wayne State University and other institutions at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, in Wayne State's McGregor Memorial Conference Center, 494 West Ferry Mall. For further information about the events, call (313) 577-8819.

Wayne State University is a premier institution of higher education offering more than 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 31,000 students.

  • Contact: Tom Reynolds
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