Lowell Humanities Series
The work of acclaimed novelists, journalists, poets, scientists, and others will be showcased on campus this fall via the Boston College Lowell Humanities Series, now led by History Professor and Interim Director Sylvia Sellers-García, who has taken the reins from longtime series director James Smith, an associate professor English and Irish Studies.
“I’m truly honored to be directing this year because I believe so strongly in bringing the humanities to a broad audience,” said Sellers-García. “The ideas that emerge from scholars in the humanities are the ideas the move our world, and yet once they’re part of the public discourse they’re not always traced back to the thinkers and artists who launched them. I love how this series brings these people directly to BC and the public, so that we can learn from and be inspired by them.”
Sellers-García, who expressed excitement about the LHS guests, said that while she assisted, “Jim Smith deserves the credit for this amazing lineup. Our speakers have a strong global dimension and lean heavily on issues of social justice.”
Speakers will address questions of racial justice, inequality, and activism, among other topics.
The events—co-sponsored by a number of University departments, programs, and initiatives—will begin 7 p.m. and take place in Gasson 100, with the exception of the first event on September 13, which will be held at Robsham Theater Arts Center.
His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice
An award-winning national political enterprise reporter and staff writer for The New Yorker, Samuels is the lead author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning landmark biography His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice: a poignant exploration of the life of George Floyd and how his tragic experience brought about a global movement for change. Inspired by The Washington Post’s award-winning series “George Floyd’s America”—on which Samuels collaborated as part of his 12-year tenue at the newspaper—it metaphorically uses Floyd’s story to put into context America’s history of institutional racism. Samuels has worked on teams that have won the George Polk Award, the Peabody Award, and the National Association of Black Journalists Award for Investigative Reporting. He has also been a finalist for the Toner Prize for National Political Reporting and the Livingston Award for Young Journalists, and won awards for his work at The Miami Herald. He is an adjunct faculty member at Wake Forest University. Cosponsored by the Boston College Forum on Racial Justice in America and the African and African Diaspora Studies Program.
Finding the Mother Tree
A University of British Columbia professor of forest ecology, Simard is the author of Finding the Mother Tree. A pioneer on the frontier of plant communication and intelligence, her work has influenced filmmakers (the Tree of Souls in James Cameron’s Avatar) and her TED Talks (including “How trees talk to one another”) have been viewed by more than 10 million people worldwide. Her work, on how trees interact and communicate using below-ground fungal networks, has led to the recognition that forests have hub trees, or Mother Trees: large, highly connected trees that play an important role in the flow of forest information and resources. Her current research—on how these relationships contribute to forest resiliency, adaptability, and recovery—has far-reaching implications for how to manage and heal forests from human impacts, including climate change. She has published more than 200 articles and presented at conferences around the world, and has communicated her work to a wide audience through interviews and documentary films. Cosponsored by the Boston College Environmental Studies Program, Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, Biology Department, and The Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society.
Poverty, By America
Princeton University sociologist Desmond, the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, was launched onto the national stage as an expert on contemporary American poverty with the publication of his Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.
His latest book, the New York Times bestseller Poverty, by America, investigates why the United States has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Praised by Esquire as “another paradigm-shifting inquiry into America’s dark heart,” the book introduces Desmond’s original and ambitious case for ending poverty: he calls on us to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and true freedom. Desmond is also the author of the award-winning On the Fireline, the coauthor of two books on race, the editor of a collection of studies on severe deprivation in America, author of numerous essays, and a New York Times Magazine contributing writer. Cosponsored by the Boston College Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics and the PULSE Program for Service Learning.
Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation
A former executive editor of Essence Magazine, journalist Villarosa is a New York Times Magazine contributing writer, covering race, inequality, and public health. She is the author of Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation, a landmark book that tells the story of racial health disparities in America. Her 2018 New York Times Magazine article on maternal and infant mortality, “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis,” caused an awakening. A member of the Association of LGBTQ Journalists Hall of Fame, Villarosa has been recognized with awards from organizations including The American Medical Writers’ Association, the Arthur Ashe Institute, the New York Association of Black Journalists, and the National Women’s Political Caucus. She is the editor of Body & Soul: The Black Women’s Guide to Physical Health and Emotional Well-Being, and author of the novel Passing for Black. She is a professor and journalist-in-residence at her alma mater, the City College of New York’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. Cosponsored by the Boston College Park Street Corporation Speaker Series.
“The Interminable Cycles of Chernobyl’s Catastrophes: War, Accident and War Again”
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Thomas M. Siebel Distinguished Professor in the History of Science, Brown is the author of several prize-winning histories, including Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters. Her latest book, Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future, translated into six languages, won the Marshall Shulman and Reginald Zelnik Prizes for the best book in East European History, and the Silver Medal for Laura Shannon Book Prize. Manual for Survival was also a finalist for the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pushkin House Award, and the Ryszard Kapuściński Award for Literary Reportage. Cosponsored by the Boston College History Department and The Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society.
Poetry Days Presents Joy Harjo
“Indigenous Poetry and Native Literature”
In 2019, Harjo was appointed the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold the position and only the second person to serve three terms. Her nine books of poetry include Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light, An American Sunrise, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, and She Had Some Horses. She is also the author of two memoirs, Crazy Brave and Poet Warrior. She has edited several anthologies of Native American writing including When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through—A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, and Living Nations, Living Words. Her writing awards include the 2022 Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the Jackson Prize from Poets & Writers, the Ruth Lilly Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, for which she is a chancellor. Harjo also is board of directors chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and Bob Dylan Center artist-in-residence. A saxophonist who performs nationally and internationally, her most recent album is “I Pray For My Enemies.” Cosponsored by the Boston College Poetry Days Series, American Studies Program, English Department, Creative Writing Discretionary Fund, and the Boston College Forum on Racial Justice in America.
The appearance by O’Toole, one of Ireland’s leading public intellectuals, marks the opening of “Seamus Heaney’s Afterlives,” BC’s international symposium marking the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Prize-winning poet’s death. An Irish Times columnist and Leonard L. Milberg ‘53 visiting lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University, O’Toole recently was appointed Heaney’s official biographer. A contributor to The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Observer, and other international publications, O’Toole’s books on theater include works on William Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw. His books on politics include the bestsellers We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland (Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards and among the New York Times' “10 Best Books of 2022"); Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain; Ship of Fools; and Enough is Enough. In 2011, The Observer named O’Toole one of “Britain’s top 300 intellectuals.” He has received the A.T. Cross Award for Supreme Contribution to Irish Journalism, the Millennium Social Inclusion Award, the Orwell Prize, the European Press Prize, and in 2023 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. O’Toole’s History of Ireland in 100 Objects, which covers 100 artifacts from the last 10,000 years, is the current basis for Ireland’s postage stamps. Cosponsored by the Boston College Irish Studies Program and with the support of an ILA Major Grant.
For more information about the Lowell Humanities Series, visit bc.edu/lowell.