Nigger: Strange Career of a Troublesome Word

WED, APR 3, 2002 (1:19:59)

In this lecture, Randall Kennedy discusses the profound history of this "troublesome" word in an attempt to further understand the racial dynamics that define American society. Using the major points of his research, both legal and sociological, Kennedy relates his lessons with sparkling clarity. This is one lecture that everyone who has ever heard the famous "N-word" should hear.

Kennedy asserts, "Given the power of 'nigger' to wound, it is important to provide a context within which presentation of that term can be properly understood. It is also imperative, however, to permit present and future readers to see for themselves directly the full gamut of American cultural productions, the ugly as well as the beautiful, those that mirror the majestic features of American democracy and those that mirror America's most depressing failings."

+ BIO: Randall Kennedy

Randall Kennedy is a professor at Harvard Law School where he teaches courses on contracts, freedom of expression, and the regulation of race relations. Mr. Kennedy was born in Columbia, South Carolina. For his education he attended St. Albans School, Princeton University, Oxford University, and Yale Law School.

He served as a law clerk for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the United States Court of Appeals and for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. He is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Awarded the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for Race, Crime, and the Law, Mr. Kennedy writes for a wide range of scholarly and general interest publications, and sits on the editorial boards of The Nation, Dissent, and The American Prospect. A member of the American Law Institute, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Association, Mr. Kennedy was awarded an honorary degree by Haverford College and is a former trustee of Princeton University.

Image courtesy of Martha Stewart.

Partner
Cambridge Forum
Series
African American Culture Series