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The 2020 Adams 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, has been canceled.


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.

(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”