Shaun King wanted to teach a lesson about time. A lesson that began with a man in 18th-century garb sporting a bushy white beard.
Speaking to a capacity crowd at Amherst on Dec. 6, the activist and journalist said the portrait seemed to stand in opposition to all he believed in.
“I remember thinking, ‘Nothing matters right now,’” he said. “What do you have to teach me?”
King’s initial pessimism when confronted with this portrait—of Leopold von Ranke, known as the father of modern, source-based history—would eventually morph into a new understanding of humanity’s evolution.
“Tonight I want to teach a lesson on how time works, how time unfolds in the context of history,” he said. “It’s very difficult to know a moment of history when you’re in it.”
King is known for his work with the Black Lives Matter movement. He is such a well-known figure on social media that, he joked, people now refer to him as “@ShaunKing” instead of “Mr. King”
He was invited to campus by the Amherst College Democrats, a student group, after their vice president, Megan Yang ’20, heard him speak in New York City.
“I was so inspired after listening to him,” Yang said in her introduction of King.