Expert on African American Fraternities and Sororities to Speak on Thursday

Lawrence Ross, author of the best-selling The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities and the leading expert on sororities and fraternities, will speak at Lehigh at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, in Packard Auditorium (Room 101). The lecture is the first of a yearlong series of events organized by Lehigh’s MLK Committee. It is free and open to the public.

The title of his talk is “Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses.” The lecture, based on the book of the same name, is a controversial look at racism in the Greek system which, he argues, is fostered by many American colleges and had led to a hostile space for African American students.

Blackballed explores the white fraternity and sorority system, with traditions of racist parties, songs and assaults on black students; and the universities themselves, who name campus buildings after racist men and women. It also delves into anti-affirmative action policies and racial micro-aggressions and how they effectively segregate predominately white universities, providing ample room for white privilege. This lecture is a bold mix of history and the current climate, and a call to action for universities to make radical changes to their policies and standards to foster a better legacy for all students, organizers say.

Dahlia Hylton, director of Multicultural Affairs and co-chair of the MLK Committee, said that Blackballed marks Ross' return to higher education with a collection of narratives that recounts how institutions of higher education have perpetuated campus racism.

“During his lecture, it is my hope that our campus finds inspiration, not only from the telling of other unfortunate institutional inequities, but how members of the Lehigh University community can critically reflect how their actions may or may not bolster discriminatory acts set against Black students,” she said. “From his visit, I hope that those in attendance will be inspired to work towards a more proactive approach, instead of reactive in an effort to ensure that all members of the Lehigh University community feel that this institution is for them...regardless of their identities." 

In addition to being a bestselling author, Ross is a filmmaker, an expert on social media and consumer trends, and a frequent lecturer on college campuses. His The Divine Nine has emerged as the preeminent book on African American fraternities and sororities. He is a frequent contributor to, The Grio, The Root, and USA Today.

As in previous years, the programming planned by the MLK Committee will focus on a singular theme. This year’s theme is a continuation of Race-X, an examination of the ways in which race intersects with various issues, including voting rights, the environment, culture, politics and social justice.

This year’s MLK Committee Members include:

• Dahlia Hylton, director of Office of Multicultural Affairs, MLK co-chair
• Chris Burke, associate professor of psychology, MLK co-chair
• Avery Gardner, education and community outreach coordinator, Zoellner Arts Center
• Linda Harbrecht, director of university communications
• Deborah Sacarakis, artistic director, Zoellner Arts Center
• Evelynda Santos, coordinator, Office of Multicultural Affairs
• Lloyd Steffen, professor of religion studies, university chaplain and director of the Center for Dialogue
• Jennifer Swann, professor of biological sciences, director of Student Success in the College of Arts and Sciences

Questions about the MLK Celebration Committee can be directed to


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