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**CANCELLED** 2020 E. Maynard Adams Symposium for the Humanities – Philosophy, Prisons, and the Search for Social Justice

March 20, 2020 @ 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm


Unfortunately, the keynote speaker for this year’s Maynard Adams Symposium, Professor Tommie Shelby at Harvard University, is unable to travel because of specific  coronavirus-related travel restrictions at his University. This year’s Adams Symposium on “Philosophy, Prisons, and the Search for Social Justice” (March 20-21) has therefore been cancelled. If we are able to reschedule this event later in the year, information will be posted on our website (

The fourth annual symposium in honor of distinguished UNC philosopher Maynard Adams (1919–2003) will feature keynote speaker Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African & African American Studies and of Philosophy at Harvard University. Professor Shelby explores how racism, racial identities, and racial politics affect American society. His work includes influential books such as Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent, and Reform (2016) and the co-edited collection, To Shape a New World: Essays on the Political Philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. (2018).

This year’s symposium will apply philosophical analysis to specific problems of social justice, with particular attention to debates about how mass incarceration exemplifies wider social processes and policies that connect imprisonment to commercial profit. How, for example, does prison privatization undermine or promote social justice? How do philosophical arguments show the limits or possibilities for justice in private and public prison systems? Two panels of faculty colleagues and public humanists will respond to Professor Shelby’s themes and discuss how the humanities might contribute to specific prison reforms.

The symposium begins with Professor Shelby’s keynote lecture, “What’s Wrong with the Prison Industrial System,” and a public reception at The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History on Friday, March 20, 5:30 to 8:00 pm.

The panel sessions will be held Saturday, March 21, 9:00 am to 12:30 pm, at the Center for School Leadership Development.

Our panelists include:

  • Seth Kotch, Associate Professor, American Studies
  • Minji Jang, Maynard Adams Fellow for the Public Humanities and PhD Candidate in Philosophy
  • Ronald Carnes, Activist
  • Raphael Ginsberg, Associate Director, Correctional Education Program, UNC, Chapel Hill
  • Dionne Gonder-Stanley, Professor of Criminal Law, North Carolina Central University, School of Law
  • Simone Gubler, Teaching Assistant Professor, Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program

The Adams Symposium is free and open to the public. Professor Shelby’s books will be available for sale at the event.

Carolina Public Humanities thanks the Taylor Charitable Trust, the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Philosophy Department for generously supporting this year’s Maynard Adams Symposium.


March 20, 2020
5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Event Category:


The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History
150 South Rd
Chapel Hill, NC 27599 United States
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