April 11: Media Scholar and Author Pamela Newkirk to Discuss Erasure

Pamela Newkirk, Ph.D., a media scholar, author and award-winning journalist whose work highlights the historical omission of multifaceted portraits of African descendants in scholarship
and popular culture, will discuss “Erasure and the Tale of the Captivity, Display, and Death of Ota Benga” on Wednesday, April 11, at 7 p.m. in the Gallery Theatre, Elaine Langone Center. Her free, public lecture is the final event in Bucknell’s Griot Institute for Africana Studies’ spring lecture series on the theme of “Erasure: Blackness and the Fight Against Invisibility.”

In 1906 a young African man was prominently exhibited in the Bronx Zoo monkey house with an orangutan, a shameful episode that years later zoo officials dismissed as urban legend. This historical case raises troubling questions about what we know, and what we think we know, about our past and invites us to consider prevailing attitudes of that era that linger still.Newkirk’s latest book, Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga (HarperCollins), revisits the 1906 Bronx Zoo exhibition and illuminates how prevailing racial representations enable and sustain oppression. The book is available for purchase at the Barnes & Noble at Bucknell University Bookstore and will be on sale at the event.

Newkirk began her journalism career writing for various African-American newspapers and eventually landed her first job as a daily reporter for The Knickerbocker News in Albany, N.Y. where she eventually covered the New York State Legislature. From there she went to Washington, D.C. as a Capitol Hill correspondent for Gannett News Service. Later she worked for newspapers in New York City. Among her assignments was the coverage of the election of David Dinkins, the city’s first African-American mayor. She also traveled to South Africa and witnessed Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Her series of articles was awarded the International Reporting Award from the New York Association of Black Journalists. Two years later, in 1992, Pamela was on the New York Newsday reporting team awarded a Pulitzer Prize for spot news coverage of a fatal subway crash. In 1993, she joined the faculty at New York University and continued contributing articles to numerous publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation, Artnews, Essence, and civil rights blog, The Defenders Online.

This talk is made possible through the support of the University Lectureship Committee.

If you any questions about this event, please contact the Griot Institute at griot@bucknell.edu, or 570-577-2123.

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