Attending a Speech by Ira Berlin on Slavery Essay

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“Rethinking Slavery” – A Retrospect

I recently attended the lecture of renowned historian Ira Berlin. Professor Berlin is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland. He has also been the recipient of many awards and acknowledgements over the last decade. In 2002, President Clinton appointed Professor Berlin to the advisory committee of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Professor Berlin was visiting the campus as a result of his recent appointment as a Mellon Distinguished Senior Fellow for the spring semester at the University of Illinois. He hosted an invitation-only conference at the Illini Union entitled “Transforming Slavery” on the day following his lecture.

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After that small controversy was over, I arrived at Gregory Hall shortly before the lecture began. The first thing I noticed was the size of the room. For a very distinguished man such as Professor Berlin, I expected a moderately sized lecture hall to hold the speech. Instead, the room was a moderate sized basic classroom. If Professor Berlin was such a scholar, why was he only going to be speaking to a group of no more than 50? Anyway, I found my way to a seat in the back of the room, and prepared for Professor Berlin’s lecture.

As I was seated, waiting for the lecture to begin, I took a look around the room to see the type of audience that was attending. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised with the diversity of the people attending. There was a large African-American contingent, as expected; some were students, other adults. There were also a few families in attendance, many with pre-teenage children. There was also a large amount of professors (probably at least half of the attendance) on hand. The overall amount of students was about the size I expected, making up about a fourth of the crowd.

I first grasped the respect given to Professor Berlin as the lecture began. He was introduced not only by the Dean of the History Department, but also by University Chancellor Nancy Cantor. Professor Berlin began his lecture by telling us about

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