Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression

Wesleyan University is pleased to announce the speaker for the
28th Annual Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression

Jelani Cobb

Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism at Columbia University

“The Half-Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America Today”

Thursday, April 4th, 2019
8pm Memorial Chapel

Jelani Cobb is director of The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights, and Columbia University’s Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism. He joined the faculty in 2016.

Dr. Cobb has contributed to The New Yorker since 2012, he became a staff writer in 2015. In 2018 he was a Pulitizer Prize Finalist in Commentary, where he is described as “combining masterful writing with a deep knowledge of history and a deft reporter’s touch to bring context and clarity to the issue of race at a time when respectful dialogue on the subject often gives way to finger-pointing and derision.” Dr. Cobb is the recipient of the 2015 Sidney Hillman Award for Opinion and Analysis writing, and in He writes frequently about race, politics, history and culture.

He was most recently an Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut where he specialized in post-Civil War African American history, 20th century American politics and the history of the Cold War. Dr. Cobb is also a recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright and Ford Foundations.

He is the author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress as well as To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic. His articles and essays have appeared in the Washington Post, The New Republic, Essence, Vibe, The Progressive, and His collection The Devil and Dave Chappelle and Other Essays was published in 2007. He has also contributed to a number of anthologies including In Defense of Mumia, Testimony, Mending the World and Beats, Rhymes and Life.

Dr. Cobb is editor of “The Essential Harold Cruse: A Reader.” Born and raised in Queens, New York, he is a graduate of Howard University and Rutgers University, where he received his doctorate in American History.

This annual lecture is designed to bring to the Wesleyan Campus, public figures and scholars with experience and expertise in matters related to the First Amendment and freedom of expression. This lecture is endowed by Leonard S. Halpert ’44 (1922–2017), who believed that the First Amendment to the US Constitution is the basis upon which we enjoy all other Civil Rights. This lecture is named in honor of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black.

Hugo L. Black Lecturers 1991 - 2018

A. Leon Higginbotham Jr.
Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals  for
the Third Circuit, Philadelphia

Rodney Smolla
University of Richmond Law School

Harry A. Blackmun
Supreme Court of the United States

Margaret Marshall
Chief Justice
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts

Anthony Lewis
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist,
The New York Times

Cass Sunstein
School of Law
University of Chicago

Nadine Strossen
American Civil Liberties Union

Patricia Williams
Professor of Law
Columbia University

Abner Mikva
Former Chief Judge, U.S. Court of
Appeals for the District of Columbia

Laurence H. Tribe
Carl M. Loeb University Professor,
Harvard University

Norman Dorsen
Stokes Professor of Law,
NYU School of Law

Lawrence Lessig

Director, Edmond J. Safra Foundation
Center for Ethic
Professor, Harvard Law School

Patricia Wald
Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia

Jack M. Balkin
Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the
First Amendment
Yale Law School

Floyd Abrahms
William J. Brennan Visiting Professor of
First Amendment Law, Columbia University

Antonin Scalia
Associate Justice
Supreme Court of the United States

Kathleen Sullivan
Stanford Law School

Geoffrey R. Stone
Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor
University of Chicago Law School

Nat Hentoff
Award-winning author and journalist

Aharon Barak
President of the Israeli Supreme Court (Ret.),
IDC Herzliya

Lee C. Bollinger
Columbia University

Robert Post

Sol and Lillian Goldman Professor of Law
Dean, Yale Law School

Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director
American Civil Liberties Union


Stanley Fish

The Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University
Professor and Professor of Law
Florida International University


Linda Greenhouse
Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence
Joseph M. Goldstein Lecturer in Law
Yale Law School


John Finn
Professor Emeritus
Wesleyan University