The Presidency and Race: Rowan celebration examines leadership, cultural change


On Monday, Feb. 17, Rowan students, faculty, community members will join with a nationally recognized scholar of African-American history for “The Presidency and Race: A Day of Reflection and Celebration—from George Washington to Barack Obama.”

Presidents Day offers more than a long weekend. Instead, it provides Americans with the chance to think—really think—about the leadership of our country, particularly on issues of political and cultural change.

Just ask Bill Carrigan, chair of the history department in Rowan University’s College of Humanities & Social Sciences.

On Monday, Feb. 17, Carrigan is joining with students, faculty, community members and a nationally recognized scholar of African-American history for “The Presidency and Race: A Day of Reflection and Celebration—from George Washington to Barack Obama.”

Sponsored by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and Rowan, the day will include talks by Carrigan and George C. Wright, president of Prairie View A & M University, a film screening of Stephen Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” and poster sessions of research conducted by Rowan history students.

Events will be held both at the Friends School in Mullica Hill and on Rowan’s Glassboro campus.

“Our primary goal is to encourage reflection on the role of leadership in prompting political and cultural transformation in areas of race and justice in American history,” says Carrigan.

‘We hope community members will debate and discuss, long after Feb. 17, the proper place of American presidential leadership in social change,” he continues. “Why did some leaders, like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, become more progressive on issues of race over time whereas other leaders, like Thomas Jefferson, did not?

“Also, how important was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and what was the role of presidential leadership in getting it passed?”

The Presidents Day programming will include:

“To Liberate a Certain Kind of Species of Property: George Washington and the Problem of Slavery,” a breakfast talk by Carrigan at 9 a.m. in Kramme Gymnasium of the Friends School Mullica Hill. Admission to the talk is free. Tickets for the talk and breakfast are $15. Registered teachers, students and librarians will be admitted free. The Friends School Mullica Hill, Harrison House and Gloucester County Chamber of Commerce are the co-sponsors.

Screening of Stephen Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” (1:30 p.m., Dewey Lounge of Rowan’s Robinson Hall),  followed by a discussion led by Rowan historian Chanelle Rose. The film is sponsored by Phi Alpha Theta, Rowan’s Student History Association. Admission is free.

Panel and poster research presentations by Rowan history students (4:30-5:30 p.m., foyer of the Eynon Ballroom of Rowan’s Chamberlain Student Center). Students will discuss their research on topics ranging from “Courtroom Corruption: Subversion of Antebellum Slave Law” to “Religion and Abolitionism in Philadelphia” to “Fugitive Slaves Settling in the North: The Power of Knowledge and the Underground Railroad, 1820-1860.” Admission is free.

“The Significance of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” a keynote address by George C. Wright, a scholar of African-American history and the president of Prairie View A&M University (6 p.m. in the Eynon Ballroom of the student center). Admission is free.

Widely recognized for his scholarship and leadership, Wright is the author of three books, including A History of Blacks in Kentucky: In Pursuit of Equality, 1890-1980, Volume II; Racial Violence in Kentucky, 1865-1940: Lynchings, Mob Rule and “Legal Lynchings”; and Life Behind a Veil: Blacks in Louisville, Kentucky, 1865-1930.

His current work in progress is a biography titled Robert Charles O’Hara Benjamin: A “Forgotten” Afro-American Leader.

For information on President’s Day programming, contact Carrigan at or 856-256-4819.