Harvard professor, author of 'Democracy Matters' Cornel West to speak at McDaniel College

Harvard Professor and author of "Race Matters" and "Democracy Matters," Cornel West.
Harvard Professor and author of "Race Matters" and "Democracy Matters," Cornel West. (Courtesy photo)

Cornel West, Harvard professor, recording artist and actor in two movies of “The Matrix” trilogy, will be speaking in Westminster on Friday, March 29.

West is set to deliver the biannual Ira G. Zepp, Jr. Memorial Lecture at 6 p.m. in the McDaniel College WMC Alumni Hall, which seats 500. The event is free and open to the public, but those interested in attending are encouraged to arrive early — doors open at 5:30 p.m. — to ensure they get a seat.


“We expect interest not only from the McDaniel community, but also the greater Westminster community,” McDaniel College President Roger Casey wrote in an email.

West is a professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University, but has also taught at Princeton, Yale and Union Theological Seminary. He is the author of more than 20 works including “The Ethical Dimensions of Marxist Thought,” “Race Matters,” “Democracy Matters” and, most recently, “Black Prophetic Fire,” which explores the impact of the lives of African-American leaders such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells and Martin Luther King Jr.

West has also recorded several spoken word albums, including 2007’s “Never Forget: A Journey Of Revelations,” which features collaborations with Andre 3000, KRS-One and Talib Kweli. He has appeared on numerous television programs including “Real Time with Bill Maher,” and appeared in the films “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions.”

We are certainly thrilled to welcome such a well-known and prominent speaker as Dr. West on campus at McDaniel,” Casey wrote in an email. “Although there is not a particular title or topic for this lecture, we expect that Dr. West will speak with conviction and compassion and touch on current events within our country.”

West’s invitation to speak was made possible through the efforts of a 1968 McDaniel alumnus, David Carrasco, who is the Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America at Harvard University, according to Casey.

West delivering the Zepp lecture is also no accident, according to Casey, given West’s scholarship and activism around both his Christian faith and race, and Zepp’s own involvement in the civil rights movement.

Zepp was a professor of religious studies at what was Western Maryland College, now McDaniel, for more than 40 years, and helped found the annual Common Ground on the Hill. He also participated in the effort to desegregate restaurants in Westminster in the 1960s, and marched with King in Selma in 1965, according to Casey.

“Ira, who died in 2009, inspired generations of students to lead lives committed to service, activism and peace. He was a human rights and civil rights activist who advocated for the acceptance of gays and women’s rights,” Casey wrote. “His life of service, scholarship, mentorship and activism corresponds with Dr. West and his ideals and I cannot imagine a more fitting speaker for our Zepp Lecture.”