Coy James Memorial Lecture Series in American History

Robinson Hall, home of the Albion College History DepartmentEach year the Albion College History Department invites a distinguished scholar in U.S. history to share their work with the faculty, students, and community at-large. This endowed lecture series was established to honor the late Professor Coy James, a much-revered member of the History faculty for many years. Some recent speakers have included:


"Whatever Happened To Idlewild?"
Tuesday, March 29, 7:00 p.m.
Bohm Theatre, 201 S. Superior St., Albion MI

Once called “The Black Las Vegas,” Idlewild, Michigan was a wondrous place where African Americans could vacation and relax during America’s segregated Jim Crow era. An incredibly vibrant community from the 1920s through 1960s, but Idlewild today is far from the luxury haven that it once was.

The documentary “Whatever Happened to Idlewild?” showcases the former “Black Eden” and proposes answers to what has come of the historical resort town. Following the film screening, join us in a stimulating discussion led by director, Coy Davis.

The event is free and open to the public.



"1913 Massacre": An Evening of Film and Live Music
Tuesday, February 24th 7:00 p.m.
Bohm Theatre, 201 S. Superior St., Albion, MI

In film and music, the evening explores a dramatic moment in the history of Calumet, a once booming mining city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. On Christmas Eve, 1913, striking copper miners, their wives, and children gathered upstairs in Italian Hall to celebrate the holiday. Someone yelled “Fire!” Panic ensued and in the crush, 74 people died. Fifty-nine were children.  

Clark “Bucky” Halker, recording artist and labor historian, will illuminate the story of Calumet, its union and class struggles, and the Woody Guthrie song that inspired the film.  Halker’s presentation will feature a live musical performance.

The event is free and open to the public.


Tom Chambers, Professor of History, Niagara University presented the Coy James Memorial History Lecture in September.  Professor Chambers discussed his book, "Memories of War: Visiting Battlegrounds and Bonefields in the Early American Republic."  


Dr. Philip P. Mason, author and Emeritus Distinguished Professor of History at Wayne State University was the Coy James Memorial Lecturer in November of 2011.  Dr. Mason is the author of "Rum Running & the Roaring Twenties: Michigan and Prohibition."  Dr. Mason is the former Director of Archives of Labor & Urban Affairs at the Walter P. Reuther Library.


In February for Black History Month, the Coy James Memorial Lecture, entitled “Albion and the American Dream,” was presented by Professor Wesley Dick. Professor Dick discussed perspectives on the history of the Albion community, including the role of “the Albion Malleable Iron Company” in creating Albion’s multi-ethnic and inter-racial population, during World War II, desegregation of the West Ward School, the presidential campaign vist of John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King., Jr.’s Albion speech, and Albion during the first Earth Day of 1970 when CBS news put Albion on its national network special.


Dr. Kristin Hoganson (University of Illinois) presented her study on "Buying Into Empire: Exploring Material and Food Consumption,1865-1920, and the Historical Context of Globalization." Dr. Hoganson specializes in the history of the United States in global context and the cultures of U.S. imperialism.


Kevin K. Gaines (University of Michigan) spoke on American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates in the Civil Rights Era. Gaines is director of the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies and professor of history at the University of Michigan. He is author of the award-winning Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture during the Twentieth Century.


Thomas J. Sugrue (University of Pennsylvania) presented his research on "Jim Crow's Last Stand: Detroit and America's Unfinished Struggle for Racial Equality." Prof. Sugrue is the author of prize-winning The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton University Press).


Mae Ngai (University of Chicago) shared her work on "'An Ironic Testimony to the Value of American Democracy': Assimilationism and the World War II Internment of Japanese Americans." Prof. Ngai is the author of Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America, 1924-1965 (Princeton University Press). Impossible Subjects has received multiple honors including the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize from Organization of American Historians and the Littleton Griswold Prize from American Historical Association.


Nick Savatore (Cornell University) presented "Singing in a Strange Land: C.L. Franklin's Ministry from Mississippi to Detroit, 1915-1984, the focus of his most recent book.