A headshot of Beverly Tatum

Higher ed thought leader Beverly Daniel Tatum, a clinical psychologist widely known as an expert in race relations, will deliver this year’s MLK address at Lehigh.

Race Relations Expert Beverly Tatum to Speak at Lehigh

The best-selling author and higher ed thought leader will deliver the MLK address.

Story by

Linda Harbrecht

Spelman College President Emerita Beverly Daniel Tatum, a clinical psychologist widely known as an expert in race relations and a thought leader in higher education, will deliver this year’s MLK address at Lehigh. Tatum’s talk, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 26, 2020, in Packard 101. Her lecture is titled, “A Conversation about Race with Dr. Beverly D. Tatum,” and it will be followed by a Q&A session.

“As a scholar, advocate, and educator, Dr. Tatum has helped bring awareness to the many ways (subtle and not-so-subtle) that race contributes to the daily experiences of young people in particular, which in turn impact identity formation and social behavior,” said Associate Professor of Psychology Christopher Burke, who is chairing the MLK Committee. “She has pointed to the need for earnest and ongoing conversation about race and racism for achieving lasting social change.”

Her talk will be one in a series of talks and events organized by the MLK Committee this academic year around the theme of “From Reflection to Action: Where Do We Go From Here?” The theme was drawn from MLK’s last manuscript and is intended to encourage a deeper discussion on how members of the campus community can act as agents of change.

Poster for The MLK Day of Celebration

The MLK Committee will kick off the Spring 2020 semester with an MLK Day of Celebration on Monday, Jan. 20th, with a lunch and discussion on peace and nonviolence that will be held in the Fellowship Hall of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church at 474 Vine St. 

During the Fall 2019 semester, the MLK Committee brought best-selling author Ibram X. Kendi to speak about his book, “How to Be an Antiracist,” and organized social justice panels on the topics of community engagement and on the role student activism played on changing Lehigh culture.

The MLK Committee will kick off the Spring 2020 semester with an MLK Day of Celebration on Monday, Jan. 20th, with a lunch and discussion on peace and nonviolence that will be held in the Fellowship Hall of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church at 474 Vine St. 

Additional events will include a social justice panel on immigration awareness on Feb. 19th, reading circles of Tatum’s book on Feb. 5th, March 4th, and March 25th, and a panel on environmental justice on April 22nd.

A modern classic on race

Tatum is the author of several books, including the best-selling “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”and Other Conversations About Race and Can We Talk About Race? and Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation. Her first book is considered a modern classic in the classrooms of high schools and colleges across the country, serving as a prompt for candid student discussions on race.

Her first project after stepping down from the Spelman presidency in 2015 was updating the book to include the Obama and Trump presidencies, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Great Recession of 2008, affirmative action backlash and police shootings of citizens. The 20th anniversary edition of her book was released in 2017, and ends on an optimistic note.

“There is no question that we are living in a difficult time, and recent events in Charlottesville and elsewhere have been very disturbing,” she told a writer for Inside Higher Ed in 2017. “I work at maintaining my optimism because I believe that in times of darkness, we all need to generate more light. The epilogue is titled ‘Signs of Hope, Sites of Progress,’ because we all need to remember that each of us can exercise the kind of inclusive leadership we need to interrupt the cycle of racism. With the collective hard work and effort of many, I still believe positive social change is possible.”

Tatum is a sought-after speaker, with particular expertise on the topics of racial identity development, race and education, strategies for creating inclusive campus environments and higher education leadership.

She was awarded the prestigious Brock International Prize in Education for her innovative leadership in the field in 2005, and was the 2014 recipient of the American Psychological Association (APA) Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology. 

A civic leader in the Atlanta community, Tatum is engaged in educational initiatives designed to expand educational opportunity for underserved students and their families. She serves on the governing boards of the Westside Future Fund, Achieve Atlanta, Morehouse College, the Tull Charitable Foundation and the Georgia Power Company. She is also on the boards of Smith College. TIAA Charitable and the Educational Testing Service. She holds a B.A. degree in psychology from Wesleyan University, and M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan, as well as an M.A. in Religious Studies from Hartford Seminary. 

Her 13-year presidency at Spelman College (2002-2015) was marked by innovation and growth, and her visionary leadership was recognized in 2013 with the Carnegie Academic Leadership Award. Over the course of her career, she has served as a faculty member at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Westfield State University, and Mount Holyoke College, where she also served as dean and acting president. During Spring 2017, she was the Mimi and Peter E. Haas Distinguished Visitor at Stanford University.

Story by

Linda Harbrecht

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