A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations

The A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations was created in 1995 to perpetuate the work of a man who had devoted his life to the idea of racial parity. As professor and chair of sociology at Arizona State University, A. Wade Smith worked tirelessly to improve race relations on the ASU campus and within the greater community.

When he died from cancer at the age of 43, his wife, family members and friends made memorial gifts to establish and fund this lecture series. The 2021 lecture marks the 26th anniversary of the lecture series.

2021 Lecture

Update: This event has been canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Featuring: Nikole Hannah-Jones

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 3:30 p.m.                                                                             

Virtual event

About the speaker

Nikole Hannah-Jones was named a MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow (one of only 24 people chosen, globally) for "reshaping national conversations around education reform" and for her reporting on racial re-segregation in our schools. This is the latest honor in a growing list: she’s won a Peabody, a Polk, and a National Magazine Award for her story on choosing a school for her daughter in a segregated city. She covers racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine, and has spent years chronicling the way official policy has created — and maintains — racial segregation in housing and schools. Her deeply personal reports on the black experience in America offer a compelling case for greater equity. She has written extensively on the history of racism, school resegregation, and the disarray of hundreds of desegregation orders, as well as the decades-long failure of the federal government to enforce the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act. She is currently writing a book on school segregation called The Problem We All Live With, to be published on the One World imprint of Penguin/Random House.

Her piece “Worlds Apart” in The New York Times Magazine won the National Magazine Award for “journalism that illuminates issues of national importance” as well as the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism. In 2016, she was awarded a Peabody Award and George Polk Award for radio reporting for her This American Life story, “The Problem We All Live With.” She was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and was also named to The Root 100. Her reporting has also won Deadline Club Awards, Online Journalism Awards, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service, the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, the Emerson College President’s Award for Civic Leadership, and was a previous finalist for the National Magazine Award.

Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting with the goal of increasing the number of reporters and editors of color. She holds a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina and earned her BA in History and African-American studies from the University of Notre Dame. For the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies, she investigated social changes under Raul Castro and the impact of universal healthcare on Cuba’s educational system. She was also selected by the University of Pennsylvania to report on the impact of the Watts Riots for a study marking the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission report, 2007. Along with The New York Times, her reporting has been featured in ProPublica, The Atlantic Magazine, Huf ington Post, Essence Magazine, The Week Magazine, Grist, Politico Magazine, and on Face the Nation, This American Life, NPR, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Democracy Now, and radio stations across the country.

2020 lecture

Featuring: April Ryan
White House Correspondent and CNN Political Analyst

Tuesday, March 3, 2020 at 6:00 p.m.
Armstrong Hall, room 101
1100 S McAllister Ave, Tempe, AZ 85287

This lecture is free and open to the public. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and seating will be available on a first come, first served basis. Visitor parking (paid by the hour) is available in the Rural Rd. Parking Structure just a short walk from Armstrong Hall. For more information about parking on the ASU Tempe campus, please visit https://cfo.asu.edu/daily-and-hourly.

About the speaker

White House Correspondent April Ryan has a unique vantage point as the only black female reporter covering urban issues from the White House – a position she has held since the Clinton era.  On behalf of the American Urban Radio Networks, and through her "Fabric of America" news blog, she delivers her readership and listeners (millions of African Americans and close to 300 radio affiliates) a “unique urban and minority perspective in news.” Her position as a White House Correspondent has afforded her unusual insight into the racial sensitivities, issues, and attendant political struggles of our nation’s last presidents.  

April can be seen almost daily on CNN as a political analyst.  She has been featured in Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Elle magazines – to name a few.

April Ryan has served on the board of the prestigious White House Correspondents Association. She is one of only three African Americans in the Association’s over 100-year history to serve on its board. She is also an esteemed member of the National Press Club.  In 2015, Ms. Ryan was nominated for an NAACP Image Award (Outstanding Literary Work - Debut Author) for her first book.  2016 National Council of Negro Women, Mary McCloud Bethune Trailblazer. In 2019 April Ryan became honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Incorporated.

April is a Baltimore native and Morgan State University graduate, and she gives back to this community by serving as a mentor to aspiring journalists, and assisting with developing “up and coming” broadcasters.  April considers her greatest life’s work raising her two daughters, Ryan and Grace – who are phenomenal young women. 

April Ryan is the author of the award winning book, The Presidency in Black and White, and At Mama's Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White (December 2016), where she looks at race relations through the lessons and wisdom that mothers have given their children. Her latest book is Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House.

Past lectures

The primary purpose of the A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture Series is to promote improved race relations on the Arizona State University campus and within the greater Phoenix metropolitan area community. The lecture is free to the public and is designed to recognize and perpetuate the dream and work of A. Wade Smith, a respected scholar and former chair of the department of sociology at ASU who devoted his life and career to achieving racial and social parity.

Smith’s efforts began with his undergraduate work at Dartmouth and continued through his graduate work at the University of Chicago and his teaching career at the University of South Carolina. He joined the ASU faculty in 1981.

At the time of his death in 1994, Smith was chair of the ASU Campus Environment Team. When he died from cancer at the age of 43, he was most concerned and agitated about the work he was leaving undone. Elsie Moore, his widow and an ASU professor of psychology in education, decided to turn her grief into action and chose to perpetuate Smith’s legacy and work by initiating an endowment to support an annual community lecture on race relations. A campaign to permanently endow the annual A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations is an ongoing effort by friends, family, colleagues and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

ASU invites nationally prominent individuals to present the annual lecture and to visit the campus to discuss race relations in the United States. Past lecturers include:

2019 Dr. Mamie E. Locke The 2019 lecture with Dr. Locke, professor of political science at Hampton University and member of the Virginia State Senate, unfortunately did not take place as it had to be canceled due to a last-minute emergency. 

2018 Isabel Wilkerson, journalist and author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for her work as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times in 1994, making her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African American to win for individual reporting.

2017 Dr. Aldon Morris, the Leon Forrest Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University, spoke about scholarship and activism while focusing on the lessons of W. E. B. Du Bois.

2016 Dr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr., the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University, offered a critical and insightful view on the problems currently facing black America at the 21st annual A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations. Glaude is widely regarded as one of the most important black intellectuals in the United States.

2015 Dr. Walter R. Allen, distinguished professor of education and sociology at UCLA, discussed the policing of African-American men on college campuses at the 20th annual A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations. Allen earned his doctorate and master's degree from the University of Chicago in sociology and his bachelor's degree in sociology at Beloit College in Wisconsin. Allen has done extensive research on higher education, race and ethnicity, family patterns, social inequality and the African diaspora.

2014 Lani Guinier, civil rights attorney and first tenured African-American woman professor at Harvard. Lani Guinier, the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law, became the first African-American female tenured professor at Harvard Law School when she joined the faculty there in 1998. She was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School for 10 years before coming to Harvard. She has used her public platform to write five books, including her most recent book "The Miner's Canary," co-authored with Gerald Torres. She co-founded the Racetalks Initiative, a research and public education project that seeks to develop new interdisciplinary paradigms for linking racial and gender justice to the project of building more inclusive institutions.


2013 Danny Glover, actor, producer and humanitarian Danny Glover has been a commanding presence on screen, stage and television for more than 25 years. As an actor, his film credits range from the blockbuster “Lethal Weapon” franchise, the critically-acclaimed “Dreamgirls,” “The Color Purple” and the futuristic “2012” to smaller independent features, some of which Glover has produced.


2012 Tim Wise, leading anti-racist writer, educator and activist; authored five books; received the 2001 British Diversity Award for best feature essay on race issues; provides anti-racism training and education world-wide. Wise's writings have appeared in dozens of popular, professional and scholarly journals.
Topic: "Race Relations" (April 17, 2012)

2011 Walter Mosley, best known for Devil in a Blue Dress and other popular mysteries featuring detective Easy Rawlins;  one of the most powerful and prolific writers working today in any genre; author of more than 35 books, ranging from the crime novel to literary fiction, nonfiction, political essay, young adult and science fiction.
Topic: "The Only True Race is the Human Race" (April 5, 2011)

2010 Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor of law at UCLA and Columbia University, co-founder of the African American Policy Forum and leading authority in the area of civil rights, Black feminist theory, and race, racism, and the law.
Topic: “Educating All Our Children: A Constitutional Perspective” (April 8, 2010)

2009 Dr. Julianne Malveaux, President, Bennett College for Women, renowned writer, commentator and economist
Topic: “Unfinished Business: Immigration’s Economic Impact on America” (March 30, 2009)

2008 Leonard Pitts, Jr., Pulitzer prize winning columnist, The Miami Herald
Topic: "Race, Politics, and The Drama of Obama" (April 7, 2008)

2007 Darlene Clark Hine, Board of Trustees Professor of African American Studies, professor of history and inaugural director of the Center for African American History at Northwestern University; John A. Hannah Distinguished Adjunct Professor of History, Michigan State University
Topic: “From Respectability to Respect: Black Women’s Civic Culture and Consciousness in Jim Crow America” (March 22, 2007)

2006 Robin Kelley, William B. Ransford Professor of Cultural and Historical Studies, Columbia University
Topic: “Another Reconstruction: Debating Reparations and Race in Post-Katrina America” (March 23, 2006)

2005 Christopher Edley, Jr., dean of the Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley
Topic: “Race, Policy and the Political Process” (April 19, 2005)

2004 Ray Suarez, senior correspondent for “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer”
Topic: “The Changing Face of America” (April 5, 2004)

2003 Johnnetta Cole, president of Bennett College and Emory University professor emerita as a Presidential Distinguished Professor
Topic: Affirmative Action (March 27, 2003)

2002 Mary Frances Berry, Chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought, University of Pennsylvania
Topic: “Race Relations in America” (April 22, 2002)

2001 Michael Eric Dyson, Ida B. Wells Barnett University Professor, DePaul University
Topic: “Race Rules” (April 23, 2001)

2000 Roger Wilkins, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History and American Culture, George Mason University
Topic: “Building Humane Communities: A Project Spanning the Centuries” (April 5, 2000)

1999 Henry Louis Gates Jr., chair, Afro-American Studies Department, Harvard University
Topic: “Race and Class in America” (April 30, 1999)

1998 Morris Dees, civil rights lawyer and co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center
Topic: “Teaching Tolerance” (February 11, 1998)

1996 William Julius Wilson, Director, Center for the Study of Urban Inequality, University of Chicago
Topic: “The New Urban Poverty and Retreat From Public Policy”

1995 Cornel West, Professor, Harvard University
Topic: “Race Matters”

Awards

The A. Wade Smith Community Award For The Advancement Of Race Relations was created in 2005 and is given to an individual who demonstrates a passion for race relations, a concern for building a better world and who works in the community to advance race relations in Arizona.

Award Recipients

2017  Rufus Glasper

2016 The Hon. Cecil B. Patterson

2015 The Hon. Leah N. Landrum Taylor

2014 Lincoln J. Ragsdale, Sr.

2013 J. Eugene Grigsby, Jr.

2012 Don Logan

2010 Gene Blue

2009 David Hemphill

2008 Doris Marshall

2007 Raner C. Collins

2006 Betty Fairfax

          Jean Fairfax

2005 Elsie Moore

Support the A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture

ASU seeks to increase the lecture series endowment to a level that will sustain it in perpetuity. To support the lecture, please consider making a charitable contribution through the ASU Foundation's giving page.

For more information about the lecture series, please email thecollegeevents@asu.edu.