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February is Black History Month, the annual celebration of the achievements of black Americans and their role in US history. UT is celebrating the month with a slate of events across departments. Some events extend into March.

A selection of images from the African-American Photography Collection, MS.2129, in UT Libraries Special Collections illustrates the list of events. The collection includes photographs of black Americans living in Knoxville between 1900 and 1910 Learn more about the collection.

A Lesson Before Dying

The Clarence Brown Theatre will stage Ernest J. Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying from February 24 through March 13 in the Carousel Theatre, in conjunction with Knox County Public Library’s The Big Read program.

The play, which was written by Romulus Linney and adapted from the novel by Ernest J. Gaines, tells the story of the friendship between an African American schoolteacher and an uneducated African American man who has been wrongly accused of murder and sentenced to death in the pre-Civil Rights Movement South.

Pay What You Wish Night: Attend the Wednesday, February 24, performance for any amount you choose. Tickets are available at the CBT Box Office from noon to 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 24.

Post-Performance Salon Discussions: Patrons and community members are invited to share their thoughts and experiences and discuss the play following the 7:30 p.m. performances on Tuesdays, March 1 and 8, in the Carousel Theatre.

December 4, 1956: African American students walk to the newly integrated Clinton High School in Anderson County, Tennessee, with reporters on the scene. Photo by Hugh Lunsford, Knoxville Journal (Clinton High School Desegregation from the Knoxville Journal Collection, C. M. McClung Historical Collection, Knoxville, Tennessee)

CBT Family Feast: Patrons are invited to a buffet-style dinner before the Wednesday, March 2, performance at the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center for $10. Cost includes dinner and the show. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is a co-sponsor.

Season for Youth Student Matinees: CBT will provide study guides and a follow-up activity for nearly 1,400 middle and high school students. Students can attend a production for $6. Shows are 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 2; Friday, March 4; Wednesday, March 9; and Friday, March 11.

Sunday Symposium with Michelle D. Commander: Michelle Commander, assistant professor of English, will lead a discussion following the 2:00 p.m. Sunday, March 13, performance.

Other campus and community partners, including the College of Law and UT Libraries, will be hosting a series of events throughout the month related to the production.

UT Libraries

Rosalind Hackett
Rosalind Hackett

Religion and Civility Lunch and Learn: At noon Wednesday, February 17, in Hodges Library Room 605, Rosalind Hackett, professor and head of the Department of Religious Studies, will facilitate a discussion on religion and civility in a diverse landscape of beliefs. Hackett studies the religions of Africa, especially Pentecostalism. She works extensively in Nigeria and publishes on Muslim-Christian conflict.

Say It Loud: Knoxville During the Civil Rights Era: The documentary film Say It Loud: Knoxville During the Civil Rights Era will be screened at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, February 21, in Hodges Library’s auditorium. Free and open to the public. Featuring rare, historic footage of African American life during Knoxville’s civil rights era, Say It Loud offers a glimpse into the early protests and marches in downtown Knoxville and Cumberland Avenue during the early 1960s.

8th grade class, Austin School, 1912-1913. African-American Photography Collection, MS.2129, Special Collections, University of Tennessee Libraries.
8th grade class, Austin School, 1912-1913. African-American Photography Collection, MS.2129, Special Collections, University of Tennessee Libraries.

African American Read-In: Join the second annual African American Read-In 1:00–5:00 p.m. Friday, February 26, in the Dixie Marie Wooten Commons Area in Hodges Library. Students, faculty, staff, and administrators are invited to read an excerpt from a favorite book by an African American author.

College of Law

Penny White

Screening: Dead Man Walking: Law professor Penny White will introduce the film and discuss the nuances of the death penalty at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, February 7, at Lawson McGhee Library in downtown Knoxville.

Race, Poverty, and the Death Penalty—Then and Now: UT Law Advocate-in-Residence Stephen Bright, president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights and professor at Yale Law School, will lecture. Dinner is provided and begins at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, February 11, at McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.

Sixteenth Annual Julian Blackshear Jr. Scholarship Gala: Reception begins at 6:00 p.m., dinner begins at 7:00 p.m. Friday, February 12, at Holiday Inn World’s Fair Park. Tickets are $50 per person; a table sponsorship is $500. Bruce McMullen (’96), a shareholder at Baker Donelson will speak. RSVP to Rynn Dupes, 865-974-6691 or

Education Equity: Affirmative Action in the Twenty-First Century: A panel discussion on affirmative action sponsored by the American Constitution Society and Black Law Student Association at noon Thursday, February 18, in the College of Law Room 135.

A luncheon in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. that was cancelled in January will be rescheduled for later this month. This event is invitation-only for law students, faculty, and staff.

Events for Students

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace: Hear about the value of diversity in the workplace from a panel of prominent, local professionals at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, February 2, in Haslam Business Building Room 402. Co-sponsored by the Center for Career Development, Haslam College of Business, and Office of Disability Services.

Dr. C.S. Boyd, Knoxville dentist, circa 1900-1910. African-American Photography Collection, MS.2129, Special Collections, University of Tennessee Libraries.
Dr. C.S. Boyd, Knoxville dentist, circa 1900-1910. African-American Photography Collection, MS.2129, Special Collections, University of Tennessee Libraries.

Black Issues Conference: Join the Office of Multicultural Student Life and the UT Knoxville chapter of the NAACP for the eleventh annual Black Issues Conference, “Reclaiming Our Past, Embracing Our Future.” The event is 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday, February 6, in Alumni Memorial Building. The conference brings the campus and community together to discuss issues that affect the black community. Limited onsite registration available.

Open House: Will You Come In?: Hosted by the National Pan-Hellenic Council, 7:00 p.m. Monday, February 8, at the International House. Open House is an opportunity for students to find out about the National Pan-Hellenic Council’s (D9) organizations. Students will have the opportunity to ask questions about membership, listen to historical overviews, and learn more about misconceptions and stereotypes associated with historically African American fraternities and sororities.

Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Spring Interest Meeting: Learn more about the historically African American fraternity at 6:55 p.m. Tuesday, February 9, in Art and Architecture Building Room 325. Business casual attire is requested.

Diversity Job Fair: The Diversity Job Fair, 3:00–5:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 10, in Thompson-Boling Arena, is designed for students from a variety of populations, such as students with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, and individuals from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The fair is for all majors and degree levels. Professional dress and resumes are expected.

Know Better, Do Better: College, Racism, and You: Lawrence Ross, author of Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses, will speak at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 10, in Cox Auditorium. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Ross will inform students about the history of campus racism, how to prevent it, and what they can do about it. Organized by the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life, Multicultural Student Life, Black Cultural Programming Committee, Central Program Council, Center for Student Engagement, Center for Leadership and Service, Dean of Students, Student Government Association, and the Black Student Union.

#BlackLivesSTILLMatter: Hosted by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 17, in the Frieson Black Cultural Center.

Other Events on Campus

Umar Johnson: Pan-Afrikenism: Umar Johnson will speak on Pan-Africanism at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 3, at McClung Museum. This movement encourages the solidarity of Africans worldwide and is based on the belief that African unity is vital to economic, social, and political progress.

Don Frieson
Don Frieson

African American Trailblazer Series: Alumnus Don Frieson, executive vice president of operations for Sam’s Club, will speak 5:15–6:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 3, in the College of Communication and Information Scripps Lab, Room 402. Presented by the Commission for Blacks and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, the African American Trailblazer Series is dedicated to honoring the accomplishments of African Americans affiliated with UT who are trailblazers in their disciplines or within the fields of diversity, inclusion, and social justice.

Traces of the Trade: Screening and Talkback: Join Tyson House Lutheran and Episcopal Campus Ministry at McClung Museum for a 1:00 p.m. Saturday, February 13, screening of Traces of the Trade and a talkback session with filmmakers Dane and Constance Perry. The film, directed by Katrina Browne, tells the story of her discovery that her New England ancestors, the DeWolfe family, was the largest slave-owning family in the United States.

#BlackHistoryMatters Spring Film and Discussion Series: A free showing of Freedom Riders will screen at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, February 16, in the Haslam Business Building, Room 202. Directed by Stanley Nelson, Jr., the film is a powerful, harrowing, and ultimately inspiring story of six months in 1961 when more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives by traveling together on buses and trains through the deep south. They exposed the Jim Crow south’s refusal to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court decision that banned racial segregation on interstate travel.

College of Communication and Information Experience Diversity Banquet: This annual banquet, hosted by the Diversity Student Leaders Society, provides an inspirational diversity experience for students, faculty, and others attendees. The banquet, 7:00–10:00 p.m. Friday, February 19, at Bearden Banquet Hall, also raises funds to support the college’s Diversity and Inclusion Program. Multicultural dance, music and performing arts are showcased during the evening. Donated items are sold via silent auction.

Gallery of Excellence and Reception: The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is hosting a reception and exposition of diversity-related research and creative activity at 4:30–6:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 24, in the Frieson Black Cultural Center.

Family Fun Day: Celebrating African American History: Join us from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Saturday, February 27, at McClung Museum for a free Family Fun Day featuring activities, crafts, tours, and more. Celebrate African American History Month by learning more about African-American history.