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“Race Course Against White Supremacy,” with Authors Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn

May 9, 2009 @ 8:00 pm 10:00 pm EDT

Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, the former Weatherman-turned-professor (at the University of Illinois in Chicago), was best known for his lifelong commitment to social justice before being drawn into a Republican smear campaign directed at presidential candidate Barack Obama. Race Course Against White Supremacy, the new book he wrote with wife Bernardine Dohrn (noted Northwestern law professor, head of the Children and Family Justice Center in Chicago, and also a former leader of the Weatherman), should cement their reputation as two of the country’s preeminent progressive thinkers.

As pundits ponder the Obama presidency’s impact on racism, the veteran political activists argue that white supremacy is alive and well in the United States. The two will discuss how systemic racial inequality in the criminal justice system, education, and housing illustrate the powerful pull of bigotry in our country.

Arguing that white supremacy has been the dominant political system in the United States since its earliest days—and that it is still very much with us—their new book draws upon the authors’ own confrontations with authorities during the Vietnam era, reasserts their belief that racism and war are interwoven issues, and offers personal stories about their lives today as parents, teachers, and reformers.

Says Ayers and Dohrn: “This book is the result of a provocation and an invitation. Our neighbor, the poet Haki Madhubuti, said to us over dinner one evening, ‘As people who’ve worried and wondered about racism most of your lives, you really ought to write it up and write it down.’ Write it up, write it down—that sounded almost perfect. Our imperfect understanding of racism and white supremacy, of oppression and exploitation, of resistance and liberation, has been a roller-coaster affair, off-road and cross-country, a racecourse and demanding endurance. We’ve experienced moments of clarity as well as long patches of uncertainty, folly, and ignorance. We’ve encountered obstacles, made choices—not always good ones…”

“Having made an extraordinary journey together from Sixties militants to accomplished scholars, Bernardine Dohrn and William Ayers bring to the subject of race a special sensibility.  If you think, as a liberal or radical, that you are sophisticated about race, you will be surprised, as I was, at how much you can learn from this important book. The authors intertwine their own experiences as community organizers with a brilliant analysis—both historical and contemporary—of the edifice of white supremacy in the United States. Their work is a troubling challenge to white people to examine, not only the world round them, but their own psyche, their own behavior, and to act accordingly.” – Howard Zinn, author of “The New Abolitionists” and “A People’s History of the United States”

“I’m glad this book exists. It’s a unique blend of personal memoir, historical analysis of race in America, and polemic, and if race matters, and if personal commitment to overcoming racism matters, then this book matters. Future historians of the evolution and stubborn persistence of anti-racist, anti-imperialist radicalism in America from the late ’60s to the early 21st century will have to read Race Course.” – Russell Banks

“At a time when Americans are congratulating themselves on electing the first African American president, this is an important book that traces the history of endemic racism here and its current manifestations not in airy generalizations but in concrete stories, episodes, facts.  Anyone who believes we have become colorblind ought to read this.  It is a vehement call to change the way we think, speak and act about race in America, with many specific suggestions–for instance how to improve our schools and deal with juvenile offenders.” – Marge Piercy, poet and novelist

Bill Ayers

William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and founder of both the Small Schools Workshop and the Center for Youth and Society, teaches courses in interpretive and qualitative research, urban school change, and teaching and the modern predicament. A graduate of the University of Michigan, the Bank Street College of Education, Bennington College, and Teachers College, Columbia University, Ayers has written extensively about social justice, democracy and education, the cultural contexts of schooling, and teaching as an essentially intellectual, ethical, and political enterprise.

Ayers worked with Mayor Richard M. Daley and a wide range of activists and civic leaders in shaping Chicago’s school reform agenda, and was one of three co-authors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a 1995 initiative that brought $49.2 million over five years for public school reform; and in 1997 he was named Citizen of the Year in Chicago. Since 1999 he has served on the board of directors of the Woods Fund of Chicago, an anti-poverty, philanthropic foundation established as the Woods Charitable Fund in 1941, and was chair of the board for three years. He is vice-president of the curriculum division of the American Educational Research Association, and a member of the executive committee of the UIC Faculty Senate.

Ayers’ articles have appeared in many journals including the Harvard Educational Review, the Journal of Teacher Education, Teachers College Record, Rethinking Schools, The Nation, Educational Leadership, the New York Times and the Cambridge Journal of Education. His books include A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court (Beacon Press, 1997), Fugitive Days: A Memoir (Beacon Press, 2001, 2008), The Good Preschool Teacher: Six Teachers Reflect on Their Lives, (Teachers College Press, 1989), and To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher, (Teachers College Press, 1993) which was named Book of the Year in 1993 by Kappa Delta Pi, and won the Witten Award for Distinguished Work in Biography and Autobiography in 1995. On the Side of the Child: Summerhill Revisited (Teachers College Press, 2003), Teaching the Personal and the Political: Essays on Hope and Justice (Teachers College Press, 2004), and Teaching Toward Freedom: Moral Commitment and Ethical Action in the Classroom (Beacon Press, 2004); with Gloria Ladson-Billings, Pedro Noguera, and Gregory Michie, City Kids/City Schools: More Reports From the Front Row (The New Press, 2008); and with Bernardine Dohrn, Race Course: Against White Supremacy  (Third World Press, 2009). He lives in Hyde Park, Chicago, with his wife, Bernardine Dohrn.

Bernardine Dohrn

Bernardine Dohrn, activist, academic and child advocate, is Director of the Children and Family Justice Center and Clinical Associate Professor of the Northwestern University School Law, Bluhm Legal Clinic. Dohrn was a national leader of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and the Weather Underground, and was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List for over a decade.

She is co-author, with Bill Ayers, of Race Course: Against White Supremacy and co-editor of Sing A Battle Song: Documents of the Weather Underground, and wrote the introduction to Letters from Young Activists. She is an author and co-editor of two books: A Century of Juvenile Justice (2002) and Resisting Zero Tolerance:  A Handbook for Parents, Teachers and Students  (2001) and the author of I’ll Try Anything Once: Using the Conceptual Framework of Children’s Human Rights Norms in the U.S., University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform (forthcoming); Something’s Happening Here: Children and Human Rights Jurisprudence in Two International Courts, UNLV L. Rev. (Summer 2006); “The Cultivation of Fear and Criminalization” in Pox Americana: Exposing the American Empire (2004); “All Ellas: Girls Locked Up” in Feminist Studies (Summer 2004); and “Look Out Kid/It’s Something You Did! Zero Tolerance for Children” in The Public Assault on America’s Children: Poverty, Violence, and Juvenile Injustice (2000).

Dohrn teaches children’s rights and international human rights law at Northwestern and is a visiting professor at the University of Chicago and Leiden University faculty of law in the Netherlands.  She writes and lectures on international human rights law, war and peace, racism and justice, children in conflict with the law, extreme sentencing of young people, torture, family violence and school law.

3361 6th Ave
Troy, 12180 United States
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