Phillip Richards Presents Eckler Lecture

February 13, 2014

ALLIANCE, Ohio – Phillip Richards, author and English professor at Colgate University, presented the Mary W. and Eric A. Eckler Endowment in Literature and Drama at the University of Mount Union on Thursday, February 13.

Richard’s presentation, titled “Mid-Century Cleveland in Black and White,” reflected on his life experiences. While Richards stated it was hard to distinguish between “what helped and what hurt” while growing up, each experience has played an important role in realizing his sense of self.

“American intellectuals have played an important role in our identity,” Richards said.

Richards emphasized that it was necessary for past black American writers to combine ideologies, concepts from the Civil Rights movement and additional ideas in order to make sense of themselves and their world, just as he was required to do.

Richards is a tenured member of the Department of English at Colgate University. He has written broadly on black intellectual and academic life during the post-Civil Rights era. His published writing includes accounts of the development of the black studies field in the newly integrated, selective universities after the age of black power. His books include the monograph “Black Heart: the Moral Life of Recent African American Letters” and the autobiography, “An Integrated Boyhood: Coming of Age in White Cleveland.”

He has also been published widely in professional journals such as Early American Literature, American Quarterly, Style and the Journal of the Early American Republic as well as in general intellectual periodicals such as Harper's Magazine, Dissent, American Scholar and Massachusetts Review. He has been a visiting professor in the English departments of universities in Gabon (French Central Africa), France and Germany. He also has been a Fulbright scholar, a fellow at the National Humanities Center and the Institute on Racial and Social Division.

Richards is a recipient of research awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Bradley Foundation. He is currently working on an intellectual history of the scholarship produced by the crossover generation of John Hope Franklin, Kenneth Clark and Nathan Scott, eminent African American scholars who entered the elite American university departments in the post-War II epoch.  

Richards is now on a two-year scholarly leave from Colgate University, where he has taught for 26 years.

The Eckler Lecture in Literature and Drama was established in 1981 through an endowment given by Mr. John A. and Mrs. Dorothy (Nelson ’29) Cummins in appreciation of the many years of service to the community and Mount Union by the Ecklers. Dr. Eric A. and Mrs. Mary Eckler were long-time faculty members in the Department of Education at the institution.


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