This year, the African & African Diaspora Studies Program's Distinguished Africana Scholars Lecture hosts two prominent speakers: Rachel Manley, daughter and granddaughter of two former Jamaican Prime Ministers; and Reginald Dumas, a veteran of Trinidad and Tobago's Foreign Service and former U.N. Special Adviser on Haiti. "50 Years After Independence: A Manley Perspective," and "50 Years After Independence, Is Eric Williams Still Relevant?" promise to address critical issues pertaining to the last half-century of development – its successes and failures – in both countries.
As a Caribbean literary personality and winner of Jamaica's Centennial Medal for Poetry, Manley teaches literary non-fiction and memoir in the MFA program at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is a frequent contributor to literary anthologies and writes book reviews for leading newspapers in North America and Britain. She is a Mary Ingram Bunting Fellow of Radcliffe University, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Rockefeller, Bellagio Fellow.
Appointed ambassador at the age of 38, Dumas has served his country in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and North America. In 1988, he retired as Ambassador to Washington and Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), and was appointed Permanent Secretary (Chief of Staff) to the Prime Minister and Head of the country's Public Service. He has also represented the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in various fora.
Established in 1999, the Lecture honors the distinguished Caribbean statesman Eric E. Williams, first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Head of Government for a quarter of a century until his death in 1981. He led the country to Independence from Britain in 1962 and onto Republicanism in 1976. A consummate academic and historian, and author of several books, Dr. Williams is best known for his groundbreaking work, the 68-year-old Capitalism and Slavery, which has been translated into seven languages, including Russian, Chinese, Japanese and this year, Turkish. Popularly referred to as The Williams Thesis, this landmark text continues to inform today's ongoing debate and remains "years ahead of its time...this profound critique is still the foundation for studies of imperialism and economic development," according to the New York Times.
Among prior Eric Williams Memorial Lecture speakers have been: the late John Hope Franklin, one of America's premier historians of the African-American experience; Kenneth Kaunda, former President of the Republic of Zambia; Cynthia Pratt, Deputy Prime Minister of the Bahamas; Mia Mottley, Attorney General of Barbados; Beverly Anderson-Manley, former First Lady of Jamaica; Portia Simpson Miller, now Prime Minister of Jamaica; the celebrated civil rights activist Angela Davis; and prize-winning Haitian author Edwige Danticat.
The Lecture, which seeks to provide an intellectual forum for the examination of pertinent issues in Caribbean and African Diaspora history and politics, is co-sponsored by: the Caribbean Consular Corps (Miami); Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs; FIU: College of Arts and Sciences, School of International and Public Affairs, Ruth K. and Shepard Broad International Lecture Series, The Honors College, Latin American and Caribbean Center, AADS Graduate Students Association, Caribbean Students Association, Council of Student Organizations, Student Government Association, Student Programming Council; Bilmor With Advertising Specialties, Inc.; Diane Galloway's Herbal Gardens, Inc.; Edwards & Partners; Emile Sabga; Lennox Scope; Aryian & Gieowar Singh; Mervyn Solomon; Linda Spears-Bunton; Joy's Roti Delight; Miami Dade College – Prof. Leroy Lashley; Zyscovich Architects.
The Lecture is also supported by The Eric Williams Memorial Collection at the University of the West Indies (Trinidad and Tobago campus), which was inaugurated by former U.S. Secretary of State, Colin L. Powell in 1998. It was named to UNESCO's prestigious Memory of the World Register in 1999.
Books by and about Eric Williams, Rachel Manley and Reginald Dumas will be available for purchase and signing at the Lecture.