First-year students at Centre College read a common book before arriving on campus, which they then discuss with their faculty advisors and peers during the annual first-year orientation. As an added bonus, students will also have the opportunity to discuss the first-year book— “The Underground Railroad”—with its author, Colson Whitehead, a New York Times bestselling author.
Whitehead will give a convocation address on Oct. 2, at 7:30 p.m. in Newlin Hall. The event is free and open to the public and also counts as a convocation credit for students. During the convocation, Whitehead will be awarded a honorary degree: Doctor of Humane Letters.
“The Underground Railroad,” an Oprah’s Book Club selection and winner of the National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, turns the metaphorical name for the secret routes used by 19th-century slaves to escape north into a network of actual trains.
And although the story takes place more than 150 years ago, its author sees plenty of parallels with contemporary life.
“Slave patrollers in the early 1800s were the de facto police force in the South,” Whitehead said in an NPR interview last year. “[T]hey could stop . . . any black person [and] demand to see their papers. . . . It was just an early version of stop and frisk.”
Along with “The Underground Railroad,” Whitehead is also the author of “The Noble Hustle,” “Zone One,” “Sag Harbor,” “The Intuitionist,” “John Henry Days,” “Apex Hides the Hurt,” and one collection of essays, The Colossus of New York.
Whitehead’s reviews, essays and fiction have appeared in a number of publications, such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper’s and Granta.
He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Dos Passos Prize, a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for “John Henry Days.”
Whitehead has taught at the University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, New York University, Princeton University and Wesleyan University, and he has been a Writer-in-Residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond and the University of Wyoming. Whitehead currently resides in New York City.
by Centre College News
September 25, 2017