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Phi Beta Kappa Lecture by Doug McAdam

Civil rights scholar will discuss string of fires set at black churches, April 19

April 01, 2010

Sociologist and civil rights scholar Doug McAdam will deliver the Phi Beta Kappa Distinguished Lecture, "Burning Down the House: Explaining Geographical Variation in Arson Attacks on Black Churches, 1996-2001," at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 19 in the Hermann R. Muelder Reading Room of Seymour Library, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois.

McAdam, 2010 Phi Beta Kappa visiting scholar, is a professor of sociology at Stanford University and former director of the university's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. His book Freedom Summer, about the 1964 campaign to register black voters in the South, won the 1990 C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems. The Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights gave Freedom Summer one of its Outstanding Book awards.

His lecture at Knox will examine a five-year string of church burnings, mostly in the American South, that began in 1996.

Early media accounts pointed out that African Americans were the main worshippers at many of the targeted churches. Some of the news reports questioned whether "we were going back to a dark day in the civil rights movement," McAdam said.

But later news stories cast doubt on the racial angle, noting that many of the burned churches weren't primarily African American.

As a result, McAdam said, media attention on the church burnings came to a halt. Nevertheless, the burnings continued.

"My main interest in doing research was to figure out what, if any, role race played in these attacks," he added. "I think race does figure, in pretty interesting ways."

McAdam has written or co-written 11 books and more than 70 articles dealing with political sociology. His other books include Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930-1970; and Dynamics of Contention.

McAdam is past vice president of the American Sociological Association and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Phi Beta Kappa visiting scholar is sponsored by The Phi Beta Kappa Society and the Knox chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, with support from the Office of the Dean of the College and the Department of Anthropology and Sociology. The purpose of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program is to contribute to the intellectual life of selected institutions by fostering the exchange of ideas between the visiting scholar and the resident faculty and students.

Phi Beta Kappa is the nation's oldest academic honor society. It has chapters at Knox and more than 200 other colleges and universities.

Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 47 states and 48 countries. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.

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