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College of Arts and Sciences

Townsend Lecture Series

Through accessible talks by renowned scholars, the Townsend Lecture Series explores two topics that were the passions of Dr. J. Ives Townsend: the impact of biological sciences on society, and southern culture.

The Struggle for Civil Rights in the South: A Generational Experience

The College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina is pleased to welcome Bakari Sellers as the featured speaker for the 2024 Townsend Lecture Series. The conversation, "The Struggle for Civil Rights in the South: A Generational Experience," will be hosted by Mark Smith, Director of the Institute for Southern Studies and Carolina Distinguished Professor of History. The conversation will be held in the Karen J. Williams Courtroom in the Joseph F. Rice School of Law, and it will be live-recorded and aired on the Take on the South podcast.

This event is Tuesday, March 19, 2024, and is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is suggested; check-in will open at 5:30 p.m., and the program will begin promptly at 6:00 p.m. 

Register Today!

About Bakari Sellers

Photo of Bakari

Two-time NY Times best-selling Author, Civil Rights Activist, Attorney, Entrepreneur, Legislator, and overall Prolific voice of the Culture, Bakari Sellers continues to build upon the strong legacy he inherited as the son of Gwendolyn Sellers and civil rights leader Cleveland Sellers. While his dad helped shape movements working alongside Stokely Carmichael, Bayard Rustin, and Malcolm X, Bakari has come into his own, helping to write the blueprint for today's movements with the likes of Rep. James Clyburn, Attorney Benjamin Crump, and President Barack Obama.

Bakari forged his own path from very early on. He entered Morehouse College at the age of 16. He went on to graduate from the University of South Carolina Law School and became the youngest legislator in the South Carolina state legislature at 22. He carries this mantle of success with the right balance of gravitas, style, generosity, and humility- a nod to his humble beginnings in Denmark, SC where "please and thank you" are the chief currency in town. In penning both his memoir My Vanishing Country and a children's book entitled "Who Are Your People?," Bakari pays homage to the working-class values that encouraged him to "dream with his eyes wide open" and that are the predicate for his persistent fight for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the US and abroad.

A CNN analyst, Bakari also brings an ability to elevate discourse such that people always feel one step closer to a solution or resolution after he speaks. He combines these and many other talents in his new podcast, The Bakari Sellers Podcast, which airs two times a week on the Ringer Podcast Network. Sellers has also been an attorney with the Strom Law Firm, L.L.C. in Columbia, South Carolina, since 2007, where he heads up the firm's Strategic Communication and Public Affairs team and the DEI Consulting practice. He is married to Dr. Ellen Rucker-Sellers and they are the proud parents of three children.

About the Townsend Lectures

Dr. J. Ives Townsend was a native of Greenwood, South Carolina. In 1996, as Professor Emeritus of Human Genetics at the Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, he established an endowment in the University of South Carolina Educational Foundation to fund the Townsend Lectures. The lectures honor his parents (Joel Ives Townsend, 1911, and Emma Chiles Cothran Townsend) and grandparents (Robert Wallace Townsend, who attended the University of South Carolina in 1883-1884, and Amelia Dalton Carter Townsend). Following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, and many other relatives, including two great-great-grandfathers who graduated from the institution in the 1820s, Dr. Townsend attended the university and graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry with a minor in Biology in 1941. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Dr. Townsend strongly believed that the sciences, the arts, and the humanities are not separate branches of knowledge, but should be integrated within an academic setting. In addition to being a scientist, he was a connoisseur of Southern art and architecture. Thus, in making his gift to the university, he stipulated that the lectures alternate between two topics: “The Impact of the Biological Sciences on Society” and “Southern Culture”. He cared deeply for students, and admitted that his true goal was to make a significant difference in their lives. He often stated: “Today's students deserve all that I am able to give them”.

Dr. Townsend passed away on July 29, 2005 at the age of 85.

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