Image of a talk at the Hall Center for the Humanities

Other Sponsored Talks

The Hall Center sponsors and co-sponsors public talks throughout the school year. The following are events that take place in spring 2024.

“We Want an America That Will Be Ours”: Langston Hughes’s Dream of Democracy

Randal Jelks (Professor, Indiana University)
THU FEB 1, 4:00 PM
Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Memorial Union

"We Want an America That Will Be Ours" is a fiery line from a 1935 speech given by Langston Hughes titled "To Negro Writers." This talk by Randal Jelks is an exploration of Langston Hughes's rich corpus as to what democracy means in the United States today. While he is best known for being a founding member of the 1920s "Harlem Renaissance," in point of fact he wrote during pivotal shifts during the 20th century: His writings covered the 1930s Great Depression, the global crisis of democracy in Asia and Europe that encompassed WWII, the Lavender and Red Scares, the emergence of African and Caribbean independence movements, Civil Rights protests, and the debates over Black power and the arts. This talk explores what democracy means in a time of fearful crisis and how we might creatively live together as citizens to reinvigorate democratic institutions.

Jelks, formerly a professor at KU for 16 years, is now the Ruth N. Halls Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University. Jelks is an award-winning author of four books, the most recent of which is Letters to Martin: Meditations on Democracy in Black America.

Tuttle Lecture

The Department of American Studies and friends and family of KU Professor Emeritus Bill Tuttle established the annual Bill Tuttle Distinguished Lecture in 2008 to honor Tuttle for his decades of academic excellence in research and teaching, as well as his service to the university, the Lawrence community and the nation. The Tuttle Lecture focuses on Tuttle’s primary teaching, research and civic concerns: African-American history and culture and recent American society and politics. As a distinguished teacher, mentor and scholar, Tuttle guided generations of KU students. He taught in American Studies, History, and African & African-American Studies, offering the first courses at KU in African-American history and post-World War II American history.


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Winds of Change: Rural Kansas and the Clean-Energy Transition

Michael Holtz (Journalist)
TUE FEB 6, 7:00 PM
Hall Center Conference Hall (also available online via Crowdcast)

The first large-scale wind farm in Kansas was built in 2001, and since then the state has become one of the top five producers of wind energy in the United States. Last year, the state’s largest wind farm to date, High Banks Wind, came online. Located in the counties of Republic and Washington, in the north-central part of the state, High Banks is one of the most controversial projects either county has ever seen — and the focus of nearly two years of reporting by Michael Holtz. The history of the project offers a compelling case study in how America’s clean-energy transition is playing out at the most local of levels. In his talk, Holtz will share stories from his reporting and discuss what the fight over High Banks reveals about the fight against climate change.

Holtz is a freelance journalist based in Kansas City whose reporting has focused on human rights, the environment, and rural communities. Most recently his work has been in The New Yorker and The Atlantic, and he has been supported by grants from the Pulitzer Center, the Gumshoe Group, and the International Reporting Project.

After graduating from the University of Kansas with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science, he worked at the Chicago Tribune, and Associated Press, and as the Beijing bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor.

Simons Public Humanities Fellows

Simons Public Humanities Fellows are individuals “of experience and accomplishment from outside the university” who participate in the intellectual life of the university while conducting research in residence.


All We Can Save: The Power of Ancestral Wisdom

Camille T. Dungy (Professor, Colorado State)
TUE FEB 20, 3:30 PM
Via Zoom, register at

Climate change is often discussed in scientific terms, but the work of responding to the urgency of climate change requires many voices. The realms of social, creative, activist, spiritual, food production, and many others, play critical roles in the larger conversation. We also know that climate change disproportionately affects certain populations. In this talk, acclaimed poet and essayist Camille T. Dungy explores the intersections between literature, environmental action, history, and culture. Presented via Zoom, Dungy will be hosted in conversation with Imani Wadud, doctoral candidate in American Studies, and Megan Kaminski, Professor of English and Environmental Studies.

A 2019 Guggenheim Fellow, Dungy’s honors include NEA Fellowships in poetry and prose and an American Book Award. She is a University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University.

This talk is supported by The Commons; the Hall Center for the Humanities; the Environmental Studies Program; the departments of African and African-American Studies, English, Geography and Atmospheric Science, and Geology; the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity; the History of Black Writing; the Office of Multicultural Affairs; and the University Honors Program.



Food as Power: Between Decolonization and Nationalism of the Gastronomic Culture

Ihor Lylo (Visiting Assistant Professor, Slavic, German and Eurasian Studies)
MON APR 15, 7:00 PM
Hall Center Conference Hall (also online at

Visiting Interdisciplinary Scholar Ihor Lylo is a historian whose research focuses on the cultural significance and influence of Eastern European gastronomic traditions, particularly on Ukrainian cuisine. In this talk, Lylo argues that traditional gastronomic practices of social and religious groups play a crucial role in shaping collective memory. This poses a danger to totalitarian regimes that use food and supply security as a tool of terror or political propaganda.

Artificial famines or even threats of their use remain in the memory of oppressed societies and have real consequences for the social behavior of citizens. At the same time, there are fears that the desire of postcolonial countries to use food traditions in building a new identity may lead to the strengthening of “gastronomic nationalism.” The discussion about the balance between these issues is an excellent opportunity to reflect on whether we are what we eat.

Lylo graduated with a Ph.D. at the Ivan Franko National University in Lviv (Ukraine) and was a visiting professor at Jagiellonian University (Krakow, Poland) and at the University of California in San Diego as a Fulbright Fellow and member of the Scholar at Risk Program. Lylo began working in January as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Kansas.


Divas and Chorus Girls: Art, Commerce, and Nation in 19th- and Early 20th-century Spanish Cultural Production

Margot Versteeg (Professor, Spanish and Portuguese)
TUE APR 23, 4:00 PM
Hall Center Conference Hall (also online at

The cultural production of 19th- and early 20th-century Spain is obsessed with dancers, singers, and other female performers. In Spanish fiction, poems, (auto)biographical writings, and plays produced between 1845 and 1936 by both male and female authors, numerous often very talented women sing, dance, and act. In her presentation, Versteeg will discuss some of the interconnected discourses that are projected on the bodies of these female performers, such as gender ideology and ideas about feminine self-realization and women’s participation in celebrity culture. Female performance is also a crucible for a whole range of larger questions raised by the processes of social and cultural change that we associate with modernity. These concerns are related to art and commerce, body, and nation, to mention only a few. And that’s not surprising: Female performers catered to an emerging mass culture market, developed marketing strategies, and they used their bodies to negotiate ethnic, racial, and national identities as they participated in modernity’s mobility and circulated in transnational networks.

Seaver Lecture

The 35th Annual Seaver Lecture, named after James E. Seaver, long-time director of the Humanities and Western Civilization Program at the University of Kansas, offers faculty at KU the chance to present their research related to “continuing issues in Western Civilization.” This talk is hosted by the Hall Center and co-sponsored by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.



  • Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend Hall Center sponsored events. If you require a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in any of our events, please contact Program Coordinator Eliott Reeder at