Per national tradition, every year Michigan State University celebrates Black History Month throughout the month of February. This month is dedicated to highlighting the history of Black, African American and African people throughout the United States. Colleges, units and student organizations across campus will be hosting events throughout the month.
This year, James Madison College and the MSU College of Law partner to bring the authors of “Justice Deferred: Race and the Supreme Court” to campus. In the book, the authors Orville Vernon Burton and Armand Derfner unpack the complicated role the Supreme Court plays in the ebb and flow of race and civil rights. Participants will be able to learn from their insights into U.S. legal history at double events on Feb. 6.
A cornerstone MSU program is the “Dr. William G. Anderson Lecture Series — Slavery to Freedom: An American Odyssey,” hosted by the College of Osteopathic Medicine throughout the month. This series of lectures gives the community opportunities to interact with multicultural leaders from education, business, industry, entertainment and government. For 24 years, this series has featured living icons of the American Civil Rights Movement. This year, the lecture series will host Tanisha Ford, author of four books relating to civil rights and Black culture; MC Lyte, an American rapper, DJ, actress, entrepreneur and the first female of hip-hop’s emcees to release a solo album; William Barber, a pastor, author of four books regarding morality and social justice and a distinguished professor and founding director of the Center for Public Theology and Policy at Yale; and Rani Whitfield, a highly accomplished board-certified family physician specializing in sports medicine and Black men’s health. Each individual speaker series event will be livestreamed; the concert event is only available in person. More details about the series is noted in the event list below.
Another centerpiece series this month is the 2024 Sankofa Black History Month Program hosted by the College of Education’s Office of K-12 Outreach. Former Dean of the College of Urban Development at MSU, MSU Professor and Distinguished Professor Emeritum Robert Green will participate in conversations throughout Black History Month. Green was pivotal in introducing Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to MSU during the 1960s. Green was on campus on the day of King’s assassination and will be sharing his recollections of the campus climate that day, as well as his relationships with figures such as Joe Lewis, Rosa Parks, Ambassador Young and Malcolm X. Learn more about the series in the event list below.
On Feb. 11, 1965, King spoke to nearly 4,000 MSU students and community members in the MSU Auditorium. King addressed three world challenges: a need to achieve a “world-brotherhood” perspective, abolishing the notion of superior and inferior races and ridding the world of segregation. That recording is archived and available.
Black History Month events
All events are listed in Eastern time.
Black Plant Biologists Exhibition
Located in the Molecular Plant Science building atrium. To celebrate this year's Black History Month, the MSU Plant Resilience Institute coordinated with Plant Cell Atlas to host an illustrative and informative exhibition highlighting five prominent Black plant scientists who have changed our world.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Stuff the Library book drive
Support MSU's goals to fill the Grand Rapids Public Schools with books on topics of social justice with diverse representation. For more information, visit the Center for Community Engaged Learning or Stuff the Library giving page.
Thursday, Feb. 1
“Resistance Training: Arts, Sports and Civil Rights” art exhibition
Located in the MSU Broad Art Museum, this exhibit explores the shared values between artists and athletes advancing social justice-related issues. The exhibit will be on display until Feb.18.
5 p.m. — 24th Annual William G. Anderson Lecture Series, Slavery to Freedom: An American Odyssey with Tanisha Ford
Tanisha Ford, author of four books relating to civil rights and Black culture, speaks on the intersection of politics, economics and culture. She has received several awards and honors for her work, including being named one of the Root’s 100 Most Influential African Americans. Her research has been supported by many institutions, including the Ford Foundation, New America and Emerson Collective, to name a few. The lecture will take place at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts in the Pasant Theatre. Register on Qualtrics.
Friday, Feb. 2
5 p.m. — Perspectives in Black: Emerging Visions “Making Space x Taking Space: Sam x Elijah” art exhibit’s opening reception
Located in Snyder Hall in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities LookOut Gallery will be an opening reception with food and music for the “Making Space x Taking Space: Sam x Elijah” art exhibit, featuring a meet-and-greet with artists Samantha Modder and Elijah Hamilton-Wray. The LookOut Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 12 to 3 p.m., and the exhibit will be on display until Feb. 23.
7 p.m. — 15th MSU Comics Forum: Creator Keynote Address with Keith Knight
This event is located at the Main Library and will be livestreamed on the MSU Comics Forum YouTube channel. Keith Knight, a comic artist who explores themes of race and identity, will kickoff the two-day event. Learn more about the schedule at the Comics Forum webpage.
Saturday, Feb. 3
11 a.m. — 15th MSU Comics Forum: Artist Alley and Academic Presentations
Located at the Main Library, this event will host several artists to exhibit their artwork. The event will end around 5 p.m. The academic presentations will be livestreamed on the MSU Comics Forum YouTube channel.
Noon — 15th MSU Comics Forum: Scholar Keynote Address with Rebecca Wanzo
Located at the Main Library and livestreamed on the MSU Comics Forum YouTube channel, this event is a keynote address with Rebecca Wanzo, an American academic specializing in African American literature and culture, critical race theory, fan studies and feminist theory.
Noon — Sankofa Project Session I: Celebrating and Remembering Rosa Parks and Congressman John Lewis
Green will celebrate and share his recollections of the late civil rights activists Rosa Parks and Georgia Congressman John Lewis at the Robert L. Green Elementary School in East Lansing.
6 p.m. — 15th MSU Comics Forum: In-Store Signing with José Alaniz
Author José Alaniz will visit A Novel Concept bookstore in Lansing to meet guests, answer questions and sign books!
Tuesday, Feb. 6
12:15 p.m. — Orville Vernon Burton and Armand Derfner Q&A on “Justice Deferred: Race and the Supreme Court” at MSU College of Law
Join the conversation and get to know the authors of the book “Justice Deferred: Race and the Supreme Court” at MSU College of Law, Castle Boardroom, Room 343. Read the “staff voice: waiting for justice” by Timothy Innes, the reference and academic outreach librarian in the John F. Schaefer Law Library.
4 p.m. — Orville Vernon Burton and Armand Derfner Q&A on “Justice Deferred: Race and the Supreme Court” at James Madison College
Join the conversation and get to know the authors of the book “Justice Deferred: Race and the Supreme Court” at James Madison College, Case Hall’s Spartan Club.
Wednesday, Feb. 7
11:30 a.m. — James Madison College 2nd Annual Black History Month Symposium
This year’s symposium, located in Case Hall’s Club Spartan, features Michigan’s first Black woman Supreme Court Justice Kyra H. Bolden. Register on Eventbrite by Feb.1.
Thursday, Feb. 8
5 p.m. — 24th Annual William G. Anderson Lecture Series, Slavery to Freedom: An American Odyssey with MC Lyte
MC Lyte is an American rapper, DJ, actress and entrepreneur. She is the first female of hip-hop’s emcees to release a solo album and tease a new podcast. She also opened doors for many to join what is now being celebrated as “50 Years of Hip Hop.” She recently received the “I Am Hip Hop” Lifetime Achievement Award from BET and was honored at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors. Register to attend at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in Big Ten Rooms A and B.
Saturday, Feb. 10
Noon — Sankofa Project Session II: Community Conversation with Campus Police: Higher Ed Leadership in Trying Times
Taking place at the Erickson Hall Kiva, this event is a community conversation about leadership in higher education featuring MSU Department of Police and Public Safety. Register for the event.
Wednesday, Feb. 14
Noon — Douglass Day Transcribe-a-thon: Help Transcribe the Letters of Frederick Douglass
Participate in a birthday celebration (with cake!) and transcribe-a-thon for Frederick Douglass at the Main Library, DSL Flex Space, 2-West, that brings together thousands of participants at more than one hundred simultaneous events worldwide. Register for the event.
1:30 P.M. — Cookies, Coding and Conversation
For Love Data Week, Cookies, Coding, and Conversation will have a data trivia game. Participants will be quizzed on knowledge of MSU data, MSU acronyms, MSU fun facts, and statistics. Prizes will be given to winners in each category and overall winner. We will serve cookies and drinks. Registration required.
Friday, Feb. 16
8 p.m. — MSU Professors of Jazz Concert: Oliver Nelson’s “Blues and the Abstract Truth”
Located in the College of Music’s Murray Hall of Music, this event will highlight the outstanding jazz work by composer and saxophonist Oliver Nelson. MSU faculty performers include Walter Blanding, saxophone; Xavier Davis, piano; Michael Dease, trombone; Randy Gelispie, drums; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Anthony Stanco, trumpet; Rodney Whitaker, bass; and guests. Purchase your tickets to attend. Anyone under 18 and students with IDs can attend for free.
Saturday, Feb. 17
3 p.m. — Sankofa Project Session III: MSU Reflections: Campus Climate After Dr. King’s Assassination
Distinguished Professor Emeritum Robert L. Green will share his recollections of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the climate around the MSU campus after King’s assassination at Erickson Hall in Room 133F. Register to attend.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
12:10 p.m. — Beal Lunch and Learn: Black Botany
Join Angelica Bajos, Beal wellbeing coordinator, and Mark Powers, Beal education scholar, on Zoom to learn about plants significant to well-being within the African Diaspora. Celebrate Black History Month by exploring plants important for beauty remedies, medicine, spiritual care and more. Register on Zoom.
6 p.m. — 24th Annual William G. Anderson Lecture Series, Slavery to Freedom: Love Got Me Over: Singing to Freedom Live Concert Recording
Don’t miss this night of live band performances at the Fairchild Theatre with storytelling and Black history in collaboration with the MSU College of Music and the MSU Gospel Choir, led by Phoenix Miranda, Caleb Robinson and Rashun Watson. Register for the event.
6 p.m. — “From Detroit to the Cosmos: Carl Craig on Techno and Afrofuturism” conversation
Join us in celebrating Black History Month with an exclusive and intimate event featuring the renowned multidisciplined visionary and Detroit techno luminary, Carl Craig. Presented in partnership with WKAR Public Media and moderated by MSU Museum curator Julian Chambliss, this unique program will explore Craig’s creative process and Detroit Techno’s fundamental role in shaping contemporary Afrofuturism. Learn more and register.
Thursday, Feb. 22
10 a.m. — Celebrating BHM with Shakara Tyler
Located in Agriculture Hall Room 410. Come join us for a talk with brunch and meet our New Associate Dean and Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion! Register for this event.
Friday, Feb. 23
5 p.m. — 24th Annual William G. Anderson Lecture Series, Slavery to Freedom: An American Odyssey with Rani Whitfield
Rani Whitfield is a highly accomplished Board-Certified Family Physician specializing in sports medicine. Identifying community wellness as a freedom movement, Whitfield’s talk — located in the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center — will focus on Black men’s health. He is widely recognized for his advocacy work, serving as a national spokesperson for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. He has earned numerous awards, including the American Stroke Association Southeastern Affiliates Service Award, the ASA Legacy Award and the NAACP Freedom Award. Register and attend.
Tuesday, March 12
5 p.m. — 24th Annual William G. Anderson Lecture Series, Slavery to Freedom: An American Odyssey with the William Joseph Barber II
William Barber is president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach; co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival; bishop of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries; pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church; and professor in the practice of public theology and public policy and founding director of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School. He has authored four books regarding morality and social justice. Register to attend at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts’ Pasant Theatre.
MSU recognizes February as Black History Month. The Spartan community comes together to strengthen resources, programs, research centers and scholarships that support Black students at MSU and to promote an inclusive culture throughout the university. Learn more.