New Students at Hampshire Join a Conversation on Race and Justice

How does the legacy of slavery continue to shape, and even haunt, the understanding of race, gender, and power in contemporary society?

That question will shape Hampshire College’s 2014 common reading discussions during new student orientation Aug. 28–Sept. 1. Solomon Northup’s book Twelve Years a Slave was sent to all incoming students in June to read over the summer.

Professor Chris Tinson will deliver a public lecture on “The Fact of Captivity: Twelve Years a Slave and the Afterlife of Slavery.” Tinson’s talk is Friday, August 29, at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert Crown Center.

The recent film 12 Years a Slave, based on Northup’s book, helped open a new national conversation on race. One of the film’s stars, Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o, is a graduate of Hampshire College.

“The book raises important questions about race and racism that continue to be relevant today,” said Vice President of Academic Affairs Eva Rueschmann. “An added bonus is that the selection also honors a former student who contributed so much through her wonderful performance.”

The film sparked a national conversation on race, which coincided with the call a year ago by Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash for a campus conversation examining the effects of unconscious racism, a conversation that will continue throughout this academic year.

“Justice is a value at the core of a Hampshire education, and we selected Twelve Years a Slave this year to provide a lens into racial justice,” said Dean of Multicultural Education Kristen Luschen.

Luschen described the common reading and discussion as “a way to begin creating an intellectual community for new students, exploring a topic of social, scientific, artistic, or political significance.”

Students meet in small discussion groups during orientation, with a professor who will be their academic advisor. These tutorials continue to meet throughout fall semester to explore various academic topics.