Ouachita Baptist University will host Dr. Noelle Trent as she presents a guest lecture, “Interpreting Difficult History: Public History in the 21st Century,” on Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in Ouachita’s McBeth Recital Hall in Mabee Fine Arts Center. The lecture is part of Ouachita’s Birkett Williams Endowed Lecture Series and is free and open to the public.
Dr. Trent’s lecture will focus on past civil rights movements and use them as a lens to understand today’s civil and human rights struggles. Trent serves as director of interpretation, collections and education at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Her lecture will provide practical uses of studying history and public history today and addressing the role social sciences can play in talking about social justice, especially for students involved in Ouachita’s new social justice studies and public history majors.
“We started talking about it the week or two before Charlottesville, and she was on the list,” explained Dr. Myra Houser, assistant professor of history and coordinator of Ouachita’s social justice studies program. “We thought that she would be fitting just because of the current contemporary context. But then I think after Charlottesville these issues have become a lot more relevant and more directly tied. Timing-wise, I think it was very weird, and I think very sobering.”
An Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., turned violent when a driver rammed his vehicle into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing one person and injuring several others.
Houser noted that those attending Trent’s lecture will be able to gain some more insight into today’s struggles, whether considering race, gender or even what it means to be called an American in both theoretical and pragmatic senses. Trent also will share how history still applies to the present and offer insights on beginning to solve some current issues.
“I hope the lecture develops an appreciation of deeper study of the past, because that is what we’re talking about, but also of human society in general, whether that’s through a political lens or a contemporary-literary lens,” Houser added. “I think that whether we’re talking about human rights or civil rights and however we construct those, those are relevant to everybody, no matter what their major is.”
Trent earned her doctorate in American History at Howard University. Her dissertation, “Frederick Douglass and the Making of American Exceptionalism,” examines how the noted African-American abolitionist and activist influenced the development of the American ideas of liberty, equality and individualism, which later coalesced to form the ideology of American exceptionalism, according to the African-American Intellectual History Society.
Trent is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and has worked with several noted organizations and projects, including the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Park Service, Catherine B. Reynolds Civil War Washington Teacher Fellows, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of American History. She has presented papers and lectures at the American Historical Association, Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the Lincoln Forum and the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.
Ouachita’s Birkett Williams lecture series was established in 1977 through a gift from the late Birkett L. Williams, a 1910 Ouachita graduate. His generous endowment established the lectures as an opportunity to extend the concepts of a liberal arts education beyond the classroom by bringing renowned scholars and public figures to Ouachita’s campus.
This lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Dr. Randall Wight, dean of Ouachita’s Sutton School of Social Sciences and professor of psychology and biology, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Katie Smith
November 3, 2017