Cornel West to visit Washington University for Black History Month

Cornel West, one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals, will deliver a talk for the Washington University Assembly Series at 4 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 2, in Graham Chapel. His lecture, “Democracy Matters,” is free and open to the public, however seating will for the general public will be limited. Please call 314-935-4620 or visit the Assembly Series Web page ( for more information.

Cornel West
Cornel West

West is the Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion at Princeton University, but he is also well-known for his many contributions to pop culture. West has appeared as the character, Councillor West, in the highly-successful science fiction films, “Matrix Reloaded” and “Matrix Revolutions,” and has recorded philosophical commentaries on the “Matrix” trilogy for the DVD release. And he is the only academic who has released a hip-hop CD. He is also a staple of the news analysis and public affairs program circuit.

His intellectual work draws on a diverse array of influences, ranging from American Baptist religious thought to modern social theory, and he is widely considered to be one of the best commentators on the complexity of the American experience, especially regarding issues of race and politics.

His oeuvre includes 16 books and numerous articles and essays. In 1993, his first best-seller, Race Matters, fueled a national dialogue on race and democracy and helped to formulate the agenda for President Clinton’s National Conversation on Race. In 1993 he won an American Book Award for Beyond Eurocentrism and Multiculturalism (Volume 1 & 2).

In 2004, he released Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism. The book is a follow-up to his first, Race Matters, in which he explores the state of modern American democracy; his diagnosis is grim. As West states in the book, he aims to “look unflinchingly at the waning of democratic energies and practices in our present age of American empire.”

Politically active, West served as an advisor for Bill Bradley’s and Al Sharpton’s presidential bids. Additionally, he has been a force within many recent social movements, most notably the Million Man March and the Hip-Hop Summit.

West received a bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern languages and literatures from Harvard University, and completed his graduate education at Princeton. After graduation, he taught at Union Theological Seminary and Yale University. He began teaching at Princeton University in 1988 and also served as director of the Program in African American studies. He then joined Harvard University’s faculty in 1994, and was later designated the rare distinction of University Professor. In 2002, he returned to Princeton after a very public argument with Harvard’s president.

The Assembly Series lecture is co-sponsored by the Association of Black Students. Graham Chapel is located north of Mallinckrodt Center on the Washington University Hilltop campus.