"Lessons from the Past: The 25th Anniversary of The Marion Thompson Wright Series"

On Friday, February 18 and Saturday, February 19, 2005, the Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series celebrated 25 years of bringing African American history and scholarship to public light during Black History Month.

Focused on the topic, Lessons From the Past, the 25th annual conference offered an historic retrospect on some of the most significant themes of the previous 24 years by prominent scholars from across the country. The two-day program acknowledged the many changes that mark the research, presentation and appreciation of the history of black people in this country and beyond over the years of the Wright Lecture Series, as well as the likelihood that the field will continue to evolve far beyond its 19th century moorings.

On Friday afternoon, February 18th, the first day to the two-day conference, historians discussed changes in African American historical scholarship as a prelude to the Saturday program. The panel featured Professors P. Sterling Stuckey, the University of California at Riverside, Nell Irvin Painter, Princeton University and David Roediger, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Professor Adrienne Petty, Rutgers-Newark, moderated the panel.

James Oliver Horton, president of the Organization of American Historians, and the Benjamin Banneker, Professor of American Studies and History at George Washington University, delivered the 25th Annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture. Professor Horton is a native of Newark, New Jersey, and along with his wife Lois Horton is the co-author of Slavery in the Making of American History.

On the Saturday afternoon Professor Margaret Washington, Cornell University, discussed the evolution of the historiography on slavery, and Professor Michael Gomez, New York University, examined the historiography on the African Diaspora. The program drew to a close after a brief panel discussion by younger historians engaged in the new scholarship on black American life. The panel featured Tiffany Gill, University of Texas, Austin; Anastasia Curwood, Boston College; and Miriam Petty, Geraldine R. Dodge Fellow, Rutgers-Newark. Professor George White, Jr., University of Tennessee, and Geraldine R. Dodge Fellow 2001-2002, moderated the panel.

Photo Licensed by Hampton University Museum, Hampton, VA

Newark-native, James Oliver Horton, is the Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies and History at George Washington University. He is also Historian Emeritus at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution. Professor Horton received his Ph.D. in history from Brandeis University in 1973. He was Senior Fulbright Professor of American Studies at the University of Munich, in Germany (1988-89) and has also lectured throughout Europe and in Thailand and Japan. In 1991 he assisted the German government in developing American Studies programs in the former East Germany. In 1993 Professor Horton was appointed by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt to serve on the National Park System Advisory Board and in 1996 he was elected board chair. In 1994-95 he served as Senior Advisor on Historical Interpretation and Public Education for the Director of the National Park Service.

In the fall of 2003 Professor Horton held the John Adams Distinguished Fulbright Chair in American History at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, and in March of 2004 he became the president of the Organization of American Historians.

Professor Horton has served as historical advisor to several museums in the United States and abroad, including the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN, Colonial Williamsburg, and Monticello. An advocate of public history, he has been historical consultant to numerous film and video productions including those seen on ABC, PBS, the Discovery Channels, C-Span TV, and the History Channel.

He was historical consultant to and appeared in many PBS series productions including "Africans in America," The American Experience Series "John Brown"s Holy War," " Duke Ellington"s Washington," and "New England and the Civil War." Professor Horton appears regularly on The History Channel including the film, "The Underground Railroad," "The History of the U.S. Marshals," The Bounty Hunters," and as the subject of an episode in The History Channel series, "Great Minds in American History," hosted by Roger Mudd. He provided historical commentary on the Civil War, which is included in the DVD version of the movie "Glory", and he has been a regular panelist on The History Channel's weekly program, "The History Center."

Professor Horton appeared on the C-SPAN American Writers series focusing on Abraham Lincoln. He was also host of the TV Special, "A Fragile Freedom: African American Historic Sites" on The History Channel in February, 2002, based on his forthcoming book from Oxford University Press, The Landmarks of African American History. He was historical advisor to and appears in the PBS Series, "Slavery in the Making of America" that aired in February 2005 and co-authored with Lois E. Horton, the companion book of the same name (Oxford University Press, 2004).

From 1998 to 2000, Professor Horton served on the White House Millennium Council. He traveled with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton"s "Save American Treasures" bus tour of historic places in the summer of 1998 and accompanied Ms. Clinton on a tour of historic sites in Boston in the winter of 1998. In the fall of 2000, he was one of two historians appointed by President William Clinton to serve on the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (2000-2009). In the fall of 2002 Professor Horton addressed the U.S. Senate with a lecture entitled "Blanche Kelso Bruce: A Man for Our Time," in honor of the unveiling of the portrait of Senator Bruce in the U.S. Senate.