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Seton Hall University

Princeton University Historian Leads University-Community Discussion on Race  

Nell Irvin Painter, leading historian, author and Princeton University Edwards Professor of American History EmeritaNell Irvin Painter, leading historian, author and Princeton University Edwards Professor of American History Emerita, will discuss The Invention of Race and Its Implications, on Wednesday, May 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Bishop Dougherty University Center. Afterwards Professor Painter will lead attendees in facilitated small group conversations to consider the implications of the historical creations of race on our community and our efforts to be truly integrated and inclusive.

Seton Hall University, the Office of the Provost and the College of Arts and Sciences are event co-sponsors with the South Orange Maplewood Community Coalition on Race (CCR), as part of the Coalition's 2019 Conversations on Race. Rev. Forrest Pritchett, Director of Special Projects and the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Program facilitated the event happening at the University.

"The Coalition on Race is a local nonprofit that is committed to racial integration and inclusion in all aspects of community life. Seton Hall University is integral to our community identity and is also an excellent resource for furthering our mission. We are excited to be partners in bringing Dr. Nell Irvin Painter, author of The History of White People, to lead this year's Conversations on Race. We look forward to ongoing strategic alignments with Seton Hall as we work to improve racial understanding and advocate for racial equity," said Nancy Gagnier," CCR Executive Director.

Rev. Pritchett applauded the CCR's honest dialogue and goals that include true inclusion, clear intentionality of racial and cultural goals, and educational equity. The CCR vision acknowledges that diversity finds people of different races and ethnicities living near each other, but integration finds them living with each other – interacting, forming friendships and participating fully in the economic, political, civic and cultural life of the community.

Rev. Pritchett said, "In today's world, the development of proactive approaches to identifying and resolving the issues of hate crimes, racial-reconciliation, privilege, micro aggressions, safe environments, etc. should be a natural and fruitful relationship for the local community and its neighbor, a global university," adding, "The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would remind us and we can develop paradigms for action from his insights, such as: 'People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other.'"

Numerous incidents involving graffiti attacks on the homes of African American families, during the 1980s, forced the residents of the South Orange and Maplewood communities to discuss anti-hate activities. They began to involve themselves in deliberate acts of community solidarity, such as candle light walks for peace and community based inter-faith discussion groups on building trust and providing safe communities for all. These activities laid a strong foundation for the eventual development of a comprehensive non-profit initiative in the late 1990s.

"Today the Two Towns: Community Coalition on Race is an award-winning prototype for the nation. Numerous opportunities for our students will also come out of this relationship," said Rev. Pritchett.

"It is critical that the College of Arts and Sciences--the largest academic unit at Seton Hall University—engage with the community on issues of race, justice, and inequality. We cannot chart a path for a better future without reflecting upon the complex history of our nation, our community, and our university. We are extremely fortunate to have the Community Coalition on Race as our partner in this endeavor, and we are delighted to welcome Professor Painter, a distinguished scholar and public intellectual, to our campus," said Peter Shoemaker, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Professor Painter is a distinguished scholar and the author of numerous books and articles relating to the history of the American South. Her seminal The History of White People guides the reader through more than 2000 years of Western civilization, illuminated not only the invention of race but the frequent praise of "whiteness." Before becoming the Edwards Professor of American History at Princeton University, she served as director of Princeton's Program in African-American Studies from 1997 to 2000. In addition to her doctorate in history from Harvard University, she has received honorary doctorates from Wesleyan, Dartmouth, SUNY-New Paltz, and Yale. She has served on numerous editorial boards and as an officer of many different professional organizations, including the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the American Antiquarian Society, the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, and the Association of Black Women Historians. She is currently a Councillor of the prestigious Society of American Historians.

In addition to traditional courses in American history and African-American studies, Professor Painter's expertise includes the social construction of gender, race, and personal beauty. She received the Council of the American Historical Association's 2018 Award for Scholarly Distinction, presented to senior historians of the highest distinction who have spent the bulk of their professional careers in the United States. Her autobiography, Old in Arts School: A Memoir of Starting Over was a 2018 finalist for the Book Critics Circle Award, following her return to school in her sixties to earn a B.F.A. and M.F.A. in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design.

The program is free to all, but registration is required by contacting the Community Coalition on Race at (973) 761.6116 or

Categories: Arts and Culture

For more information, please contact:

  • Rev. Forrest Pritchett
  • (973) 275-2760
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