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The College of Arts Sciences

Undercover: UCLA Historian to Speak about the Secret Life of Journalist Grace Halsell

By: Agnes Shin,  A&S Communications
January 1, 2018

Historian Robin R. G. Kelley will visit campus April 16-18 for three lectures as part of the 2018 Carl Becker Lecture Series. The lectures are based on Kelley’s latest project – a biography of the late Grace Halsell, an American journalist who wrote about her experiences going undercover by passing as a black woman, an undocumented worker from Mexico and a right-wing Christian fundamentalist.

Kelley is the distinguished professor and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. History at UCLA. His research focuses on the history of social movements within the United States, the African Diaspora and Africa, and his most recent book, “Africa Speaks, America Answers!: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times” (Harvard University Press, 2012), explores the lives of four artists during the age of African decolonization.

“Professor Kelley has deeply influenced generations of historians and activists,” said Professor Penny Von Eschen, chair of this year’s Becker series. “His scholarship — ranging from books on Black working class politics to works on jazz, Black transnationalism and Black surrealism — has greatly enriched our appreciation of the astonishing depth and creativity of Black radical traditions and the Black radical imagination.”

The title of the series is “A Female Candide: Inside the U.S. Empire with Ms. Grace Halsell,” and all three lectures will be held in the Lewis Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall at 4:30 p.m. Each lecture will focus on a different theme and period. The first, on April 16,  will focus on “War Zones, Hot and Cold” between 1950 and 1967, the second on April 17, will focus on “The Colonies of North America,” between 1968 and 1978 and the last on April 18,  “Stranger in the Holy Land,” will focus on the years 1979 through 1986. 

The Carl Becker Lectures Series is sponsored by the Department of History and has brought distinguished historians to speak at Cornell for more than three decades.