This November 5th, the Baylor Classics Department will host a pathbreaking conference titled Classics and Classical Education in the Black Community. The conference has been organized by Dr. Julia Hejduk of the Baylor Classics Department. It is free and open to the public. There is no specific audience, everyone at Baylor and in the community is encouraged to attend.
Five speakers from across the country will give presentations. The speakers are Dr. E. Ashley Hairston (Wake Forest University), Dr. Anika Prather (Johns Hopkins University), Dr. Allannah Karas (University of Miami), Dr. Angel Adams Parham (University of Virginia), and Dr. Patrice Rankine (University of Chicago). The conference will be a great opportunity to learn about the importance of classical education to all people, especially black Americans.
According to Dr. Hejduk, Baylor is the perfect place to host this conference. Baylor has been striving for a classical renewal over the past few years and is even contemplating a PhD program in Classics. This classical renewal at Baylor combined with the heightened resistance to racism in America over the past few years makes Baylor the perfect place to host the conference.
Though this conference is geared towards understanding the connection between the classics and the black intellectual tradition, it will also be able to serve as a unifying conference for every student and member of the community who chooses to attend. Dr. Hejduk’s hope is that this conference will counteract the perception that classical education is somehow racist.
Though many are unaware of it, Fredrick Douglass was profoundly influenced by the writings of Cicero, and Phyllis Wheatly based much of her poetry on the writings of Ovid. Similarly, Martin Luther King felt a shared experience with Socrates while sitting in the Birmingham Jail. These sorts of connections invite investigation; and this will be the first conference of its kind.
According to Dr. Hejduk, Baylor University has been extremely supportive of this conference. According to the schedule found on the Baylor Department of Classics website, each speaker will speak for 45 minutes, and then there will be a 45-minute panel at the end of the conference.
Each speaker has a specific topic related to classics and classical education in the black community. Topics range from “Narrative of Hope: How Classical Education Helped African Americans Find Their Place in America’s History” to “Mixed Media: Black American Artists and the Classical Tradition.”
According to Dr. Hejduk, “there is a unique perspective that black Americans have, because of their experience of suffering and marginalization. There are aspects of the classical tradition that they will have a unique view on.”
Suffering and what it means to be human are topics that have been widely addressed in classical texts and, and black Americans can read those texts in insightful and meaningful ways. The conference will be a great opportunity for people to experience a fresh perspective on seminal texts.
Interestingly, many of the sources that we view as classics today were unpopular during their time, and many writers faced persecution. This conference will allow audience members to learn more about the rich history of the classics.