Skip to main content

Friday Virtual Keynote Registration Saturday Virtual Panel Sessions Registration

The fifth 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 event was originally scheduled for 2020, but was canceled due to COVID-19.

Professor Shelby will examine how class differences among Black Americans affect political solidarity. His work provides a framework for analyzing conflicting views about the relation between a race-based identity politics and a class-based, multiracial labor movement. Do the interests of the black professional-managerial class diverge from or converge with the political and social needs of the Black working class?  Are race and class inextricably linked or do they create different political and social identities? Drawing on insights from thinkers such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cornel West, Professor Shelby will explore these questions in a keynote lecture,Social Class Differences and the Search for Political Solidarity among Black Americans,” at The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History on Friday, April 8, 5:30 to 8:00 pm. A public reception will follow his talk. There is no advanced registration for the in-person talk at the Stone Center – it is first come, first served. For those who wish to view Professor Shelby’s lecture virtually, register here.

The Symposium continues virtually on Saturday, April 9 from 10:00am to 12:15pm with responses to Dr. Shelby’s talk from UNC Faculty, PhD Candidates, and other humanists. The panel features:

  • Max Owre, Executive Director, Carolina Public Humanities and Teaching Assistant Professor of History
  • Jill Adams, School of Law, Southern Illinois University
  • Z Quanbeck, Maynard Adams Fellow for the Public Humanities and PhD, Candidate in Philosophy                 
  • Joanna Sierks Smith, Associate Director for State Outreach and Strategic Partnerships, Carolina Public Humanities
  • Sahar Heydari Fard, Teaching Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Core Faculty Member of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program
  • Alexandra Odom, Maynard Adams Fellow for the Public Humanities and PhD Candidate in History    
  • Erika K. Wilson, Professor of Law, Wade Edwards Distinguished Scholar, and Thomas Willis Lambeth Distinguished Chair in Public Policy
  • Lauren Jarvis, Assistant Professor of History
  • Claude A. Clegg III, Lyle V. Jones Distinguished Professor, African, African American, and Diaspora Studies and History

There will be no in-person component for the Saturday panel sessions. To register for the virtual discussion, click here.

Learn more about our panelists and their work, click here.

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.



In Spring 2017, Carolina Public Humanities offered a new initiative to bring scholars and the general public into dialogue on issues important to living in a “Society fit for Human Beings.” Our inaugural symposium, “The Power of Emotions in Personal and Public Life,” featured distinguished philosopher, Martha Nussbaum. The 2018 Adams Symposium, “Disagreements, Intolerance, & Incivility in Public Life,” featured NYU School of Law Professor Jeremy Waldron. The 2019 Adams Symposium, Why is Climate Change so Difficult to Address or Stop?,” featured Philip Kitcher, John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. Unfortunately, ,the 2020 Symposium, “Philosophy, Prisons, and the Search for Social Justice” featuring Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy at Harvard University, was canceled due to COVID-19. We held our first virtual Adams Symposium in 2021, “What Should the Work Ethic Mean in a Twenty-First Century Capitalist Society?” featuring Dr. Elizabeth Anderson,the John Dewey Distinguished University Professor, John Rawls Collegiate Professor, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Michigan.

(c) photograph by Richard McAlpin

The Adams Symposium is named for E. Maynard Adams, who was Kenan Professor of Philosophy at UNC Chapel Hill. Professor Adams (1919-2003) played a key role in the creation of the UNC Humanities Program and was an eloquent spokesman for the role of the humanities and human values in contemporary education and culture. We invite you to explore the world of Maynard Adams by visiting this page dedicated to his life and works.

This symposium replaced the Adams Lecture (1998-2013), which featured outstanding faculty from the UNC College of Arts and Sciences. The full list of past honorees is below.

1998 – E. M. Adams, “An Economy Fit for Human Beings”

1999 – Gerhard Weinberg, “Peace, War, and the United States in the Twentieth Century”

2000 – William E. Leuchtenberg, “The American Presidency in the Twentieth Century”

2001 – Jack Sasson, “The Search for the Hebrew God”

2002 – Lilian Furst, “The Novel as Social History: Windows on the Past”

2003 – Weldon Thornton, “Are Our Universities Failing Their Intellectual Mission?”

2004 – Doris Betts, “Stories, Poems, and Superfluous Beauty”

2005 – Richard Soloway, “Perfecting the Imperfect: The Eugenic Foundations of Genetic Engineering”

2006 – George Lensing, “Poetry, Senator McCarthy, and Me”

2007 – Trudier Harris, “Failed, Forgotten, Forsaken:  Christianity in Contemporary African American Literature”

2008 – Richard Kohn, “On Presidential War Leadership, Then and Now”

2009 – Richard Talbert, “Rome and the Power of Creative Cartography: AD 300 – 1500”

2010 – Joseph M. Flora, “Professing the Humanities in a Post-Modern World

2012 – Joy Kasson, “Dramas of History and Vision: Three Contemporary Artists and the Necessity of the Arts”

2013 – H. Holden Thorp, “From Salesman to Hamletmachine: The Need for the Humanities”