Professor Patrice Rankine gave a talk on Classics and white supremacy, for a crowd of more than 40, the largest on record for a Wake Forest Classics event. His February 7th talk was titled “Caught in the Act: The Classics, White Supremacy, and the Search for a New Commons,” and he was the third guest lecture in the Classical Languages Department “Classics Beyond Europe” guest speaker series.
Dr. Rankine focused on the social, public creation of an intellectual and cultural “Commons” in ancient Athens, early America, the 1980s, and 2019. In each period, Professor Rankine argues, signal texts and moments — from Eratosthenes’ affair with the wife of Euphiletus in Lysias’ first oration, to Thomas Jefferson’s racial animus against the poetry of Phyllis Wheatley, to Wake Forest University closing its campus during the Civil War so that students and professors could fight to perpetuate slavery, to Ralph Northam’s medical school’s dalliances with blackface, to Mary Frances Williams’ racist aspersions against Professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta — show that it is our words and actions that create the Commons from which we draw our understanding of our world, our society, and our selves.
Professor Rankine, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Classics at the University of Richmond, has written widely on the reception of classical literature in modern communities of color. His books include Aristotle and Black Drama: A Theater of Civil Disobedience; Ulysses in Black: Ralph Ellison, Classicism, and African American Literature; he was a co-editor of the Oxford Handbook: Greek Drama in the Americas. His current book project is Slavery and the Book (Harvard University Press), which draws in part on his research on slavery in Brazil.
Here are pictures from the event (click on each picture to make it bigger):