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Behind the Scenes of the “Bill of the Century”
Location: Hynson Lounge
CHESTERTOWN, MD—The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was arguably one of the most important pieces of social legislation in American history. Yet just a year before it passed, civil rights had been a dead issue in American politics. What happened, in just a few months, to awaken Congress and the country to one of the most profound injustices in American history?
Clay Risen, an editor at The New York Times and author of A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination (Wiley, 2009), will address that question April 10 in a talk at Washington College. His presentation, “Bill of the Century: The Untold Story of the Civil Rights Act,” will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall. It is free and open to the public.
Risen is spending a week at Washington College as the 2013 Frederick Douglass Visiting Fellow at the C. V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. As an editor at the Op Ed Page of The New York Times, he collaborated with the Starr Center on its “Historically Corrected” series for the newspaper last year. He will meet with undergraduate journalists and History and Political Science majors during his sojourn in Chestertown.
A former managing editor for Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Risen is a frequent contributor to a number of national publications that include The Atlantic, The New Republic (where he was assistant editor), Smithsonian and The New York Times Sunday Magazine. He has been blogging about whiskey for The Atlantic, and on his own blog, “Mash Notes,” at clayrisen.com. His book on the subject, American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye: A Guide to the Nation’s Favorite Spirit, is scheduled for publication next fall by Sterling.
Risen is at work on a book about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to be published next year for the 50th anniversary of the legislation. “Clay Risen brings the sharp eye and eloquent voice of a journalist to bear on American history,” says Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Starr Center. “His new book promises to be the most thorough and insightful portrayal ever of a pivotal event for our nation. We’re delighted to support his work through the Douglass Fellowship and welcome him to Washington College.”
The Frederick Douglass Fellowships support independent work in African-American studies and related areas. Each year a Student Fellow and Visiting Fellow receive funding through the program. The author, activist and diplomat Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), for whom the fellowships were named, was born in Talbot County, Md., about 30 miles south of Chestertown, and retained a deep attachment to the Eastern Shore until the end of his life.