Four portraits of two men and two women

The Presidential Scholars Program

The Program brings some of the most distinguished voices in the area of anti-racist scholarship to Amherst for short-term residencies. Alumni and friends of the College can watch recordings of each scholar’s lecture.

Anti-Black racism has played a distinctive, long, and central role in the economic, social, political, and cultural history of this nation. The fight for greater justice and more truly democratic institutions has to be fought on all of these fronts, and at the points where they intersect, if we are to make good on our ideals of freedom and equality.”
— Biddy Martin

Biddy Martin speaking at a podium


Hosted by Biddy Martin, the President’s Colloquium on Race and Racism centers the voices of scholars studying intersections of race and American democracy.

Supported by the Victor S. Johnson Lecture Fund, established for the president to bring to Amherst lecturers in the best tradition of the liberal arts.

Past Events in the Colloquium

A photo of Nicka Smith Held in the Balance: The Trask 250 with Nicka Smith

Amherst College welcomed Nicka Smith, a professional photographer, speaker, host, consultant and documentarian with more than 20 years of experience as a genealogist, for “Held in the Balance: The Trask 250.” Smith has extensive experience in African-ancestored genealogy and reverse genealogy, and is an expert in genealogical research in the Northeastern Louisiana area and researching enslaved communities.

“Held in the Balance: The Trask 250” featured the Trask family, which ran a cotton empire in Mississippi and Louisiana valued at upwards of $4 million, all while largely retaining residency in Massachusetts and New York. Israel E. Trask was a donor to the Amherst College Charity Fund and served as a College trustee from 1821 until his death in 1835. He established cotton plantations in Mississippi with his brother before returning permanently to Massachusetts in 1822, where he ran a cotton textile mill in his hometown of Brimfield.

Learn more about Nicka Smith

“Held in the Balance: The Trask 250”

October 4, 2021

Nicka Smith, a professional photographer, speaker, host, consultant and documentarian with more than 20 years of experience as a genealogist, discussed, among other things, the unique challenges facing genealogical research of enslaved ancestors.

Two photos of Helen Zia and Robert Hayashi Asian American Activism and Anti-Asian Violence: A Conversation with Helen Zia

Amherst College welcomed Helen Zia, activist, award-winning author and former journalist, in conversation with Robert Hayashi, associate professor of American Studies on April 21, 2021.

  • Helen Zia is a writer, activist and Fulbright Scholar. She is the author of Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People and Last Boat out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese who Fled Mao's Revolution.
  • Robert Hayashi is an associate professor of American Studies at Amherst College. He is the author of Haunted by Waters: A Journey Through Race and Place in the American West.

Learn more about Helen Zia and Robert Hayashi


Photos of Ibram X. Kendi, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Kimberlyn Leary ’82 “Where Do We Go From Here?”: A Conversation with Ibram X. Kendi and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Kimberlyn Leary ’82, Amherst College trustee and senior vice president at the Urban Institute, moderated a conversation with Ibram X. Kendi, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, assistant professor of African American studies at Princeton University on March 24, 2021.

Learn more about the participants


The Broken Heart of America: A Conversation with Walter Johnson ’88

March 9, 2021

Associate Professor Khary Polk moderated a conversation with Walter Johnson ’88, Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, about lessons from the research for his new book, The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States. Read more

Imani Perry in Conversation with Anthony Jack ’07

December 3, 2020

Anthony Jack ’07 in conversation with Imani Perry, the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and a faculty associate with the Programs in Law and Public Affairs, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Jazz Studies. Read More