Thomas Chatterton Williams
The Annual Martin Luther King Address with Thomas Chatterton Williams
Thomas Chatterton Williams was the 2021 Annual Martin Luther King Day Lecture speaker for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. Thomas Chatterton Williams offers a critical reflection on ‘race and identity,’ and the necessity of moving beyond the contemporary conventional wisdom about racial categorization to a time when it is possible to achieve Martin Luther King’s dream of a racially transcendent future.
In his recent book “Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race,” Williams discusses his experiences and choices, which have led him “to question out loud [his] own continued allegiance to the color categories buttressing the American caste system.” He argues that the way towards a civic culture that respects differences and embraces commonalities is through education and a commitment to “the belief in and search for unifying truth, and the power to discern it through reason tempered by tolerance for diverging opinions and views.” This perspective motivated him to pen and organize “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” in “defense of freedom of expression in a climate of growing censoriousness” for Harpers’ Magazine.
Thomas Chatterton Williams is a cultural critic and the author of two books, "Losing My Cool: Love, Literature and a Black Man’s Escape from the Crowd" (2010) and "Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race" (2019). In 2020, he helped write and organize "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate." This defense of freedom of expression in a climate of growing censoriousness was signed by over 150 other public figures (including J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Cornel West), published in Harper’s Magazine and reprinted in newspapers around the world. Williams is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine, a columnist at Harper’s, a 2019 New America fellow, and the recipient of a Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin. Thomas Chatterton Williams, noted essayist, scholar, social commentator, journalist, and author, is also a nonresident fellow with the American Enterprise Institute. He lives in Paris with his wife and children.