college seal The Presidential Scholars Program brings some of the most distinguished voices in the area of anti-racist scholarship and policy to Amherst for short-term residencies. During their time at Amherst, visiting scholars present a public lecture in the President’s Colloquium on Race and Racism, hold seminars, and meet with students, faculty, and staff.

Launched in conjunction with Amherst’s 2020 Anti-Racism Plan, the Presidential Scholars program will bring four scholars per year to campus for the next two years. Presidential Scholars are nominated by faculty and other community members and hosted by the Center for Humanistic Inquiry and the President’s Office.

Upcoming 2022–2023 Events

Saidiya Hartman’s Preliminary Schedule

Wednesday, April 5

  • 6:15 p.m. Dinner with Mellon Mays Fellows

Thursday, April 6

  • 8:30–9:50 a.m. Class Visit: Global Women’s Literature
  • 1:00–2:20 p.m. Class Visit: Migrant Lives
  • 5:00–6:00 p.m. President’s Colloquium on Race and Racism and Keynote address for “Black: Here and Now!” Symposium

A photo of Saidiya Hartman Saidiya Hartman

Scholar of African American Literature and Cultural History
April 4–7, 2023

Saidiya Hartman is a professor at Columbia University whose work explores the afterlife of slavery in modern American society. Her academic career has been devoted to exploring the stories of those left nameless and with little documented history Through her meticulous research and narratives, she bears witness to lives, traumas, and fleeting moments of beauty that historical archives have omitted or obscured, and in so doing, affords readers a proximity to the past that would otherwise be inaccessible. 

Saidiya Hartman is the author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, and Scenes of Subjection. A MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, she has been a Guggenheim Fellow, Cullman Fellow, and Fulbright Scholar. She has published articles in journals such as South Atlantic Quarterly, Brick, Small Axe, Callaloo, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review

Hartman’s most recent book, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (2019), winner of the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, immerses readers in the interior lives of young Black women who fled the South and moved to Northern cities in the early twentieth century, and in the process created a form of intimacy and kinship indifferent to the dictates of respectability. Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (2007), combines elements of historiography and memoir in a meditation on her travels to Ghana in search of a deeper understanding of the experience of enslavement. With this work, Hartman defies the conventions of academic scholarship and employs a speculative method of writing history, which she terms “critical fabulation,” to interrogate the authority of historical archives as the singular source of credible information about the past. Hartman’s first book, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (1997; reissued in 2022 in a revised and updated 25th-anniversary edition), offers a critical assessment of the violence and domination that remains encrypted even in advocacy-oriented abolitionist rhetoric.

(Photo credit Rivkah Gevinson)

Previous 2022–2023 Presidential Scholars

A photo of a Black man in a gray sweater spaking in a wood paneled room

Hilton Als

Als became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 1994 and a theater critic in 2002. Week after week, he brings to the magazine a rigorous, sharp, and lyrical perspective on acting, playwriting, and directing. With his deep knowledge of the history of performance—not only in theater but in dance, music, and visual art—he shows us how to view a production and how to place its director, its author, and its performers in the ongoing continuum of dramatic art. His reviews are not simply reviews; they are provocative contributions to the discourse on theater, race, class, sexuality, and identity in America.

A concert with a piano and jazz band on stage

Jason Moran

Pianist and composer Jason Moran has established himself as a risk taker and trendsetter for new directions in jazz. Since 2000, Moran and the other members of his trio The Bandwagon have dazzled audiences at venues worldwide. Moran has also composed for Alonzo King LINES Ballet; conceived a jazz and skateboarding collaboration; written the film score for Selma; and paid homage to two legendary pianists in his Blue Note album All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller and his multimedia program In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall 1959. Moran is a faculty member at the New England Conservatory, the Kennedy Center’s artistic director for jazz and a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Grant”).

A woman with short hair wearing a suit and speaking in front of a microphone

Karma Chávez

Karma R. Chávez is the Bobby and Sherri Patton Professor of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies and Department Chair at the University of Texas at Austin. She is co-editor of Keywords for Gender and Sexuality Studies (New York University Press, 2021); Queer and Trans Migrations: Dynamics of Illegalization, Detention, and Deportation (University of Illinois Press, 2020); Text + Field: Innovations in Rhetorical Method (Penn State Press, 2016) and Standing in the Intersection: Feminist Voices, Feminist Practices in Communication Studies (SUNY Press, 2012); and author of Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities (University of Illinois Press, 2013); Palestine on the Air (University of Illinois Press, 2019); and The Borders of AIDS: Race, Quarantine, and Resistance (University of Washington Press, 2021).

2021–2022 Presidential Scholars

Watch conversations with the four Presidential Scholars for 2021–22. In its first year, the program brought preeminent scholars from a wide range of disciplines to Amherst in order to deepen and enrich our campus-wide conversation about racial justice, racial history, and anti-racist scholarship, action, and policy. During short-term residencies, visiting scholars presented public lectures in the President’s Colloquium on Race and Racism, visited classes, and met with students, faculty, and staff. Scholars were nominated by faculty and other community members and hosted by the Center for Humanistic Inquiry in partnership with the President’s Office.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

Dr. Prescod-Weinstein is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy and core faculty in women’s and gender studies at the University of New Hampshire.

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Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Author, critic-at-large for The Los Angeles Times, and recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, Viet Thanh Nguyen speaks with Jennifer Acker ’00, editor-in-chief of The Common.

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Kwame Anthony Appiah

Kwame Anthony Appiah

Watch a conversation with renowned ethicist and professor of philosophy and law at NYU, Kwame Anthony Appiah, as well as an interview between Professor Appiah and Sophie Wolmer ’23.

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Harriet Washington

Harriet Washington

A conversation with National Book Critics Circle Award-winning science writer, editor, and ethicist Harriet Washington, and an interview between Washington and Aditi Nayak ’23.

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