Pulitzer Prize winning author to speak at Ayers Lecture
by Daniel Gaddy
Diane McWhorter, an author who won the Pulitzer Prize for her book about the civil rights movement, will speak at the 26th annual Ayers Lecture Series on March 14.

A Birmingham native, McWhorter said the Harry M. and Edel Ayers Lecture Series is well known among national journalists, and that she is honored to participate.

The series began in 1988 as a collaboration between Jacksonville State University and The Anniston Star to bring nationally recognized journalists to Jacksonville to discuss media issues.

McWhorter will speak at 1 p.m. on the fifth floor of Stadium Tower at Jacksonville State University. Admission is free, and the event will be open to the public. Doors will open at 12:40 p.m.

McWhorter will also speak at 4:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Anniston Museum of Natural History, which will also be free to the public.

McWhorter wrote “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution,” which won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. The book was also named by Time as one of the 100 best non-fiction books published since the magazine’s founding.

Though hundreds of people have written about Birmingham and the civil rights movement, McWhorter said, her book provides insight into the confluence of violent segregationists and city leaders who empowered them.

“Carry Me Home” was also reissued this year, the 50th anniversary of events including the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing and Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

McWhorter also writes about race and civil rights history for publications such as The New York Times and USA Today’s Op-Ed page.

In 2004, McWhorter also published a history of the civil rights movement, “A Dream of Freedom,” directed toward younger readers. The New York Times named it as one of the newspaper’s “Notable Children’s Books of 2004.”

McWhorter said her lecture will cover how the civil rights movement illustrates “how hard it is to be on the right side of history.”

She said she hopes many young people attend the lecture so she can stress to them the importance of bearing witness to historical events and of preventing those events from being sanitized 50 years later.

“I’m hoping it may make them look differently at their lives,” she said.

McWhorter is in her second year of a research fellowship at Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. She is researching her next book, which will cover Wernher von Braun and the Third Reich missile pioneers who were brought to Alabama after World War II and built the rocket that put the first man on the moon.

Daniel Gaddy: 256-235-3560. On Twitter: @DGaddy_Star.
© 2013