The Annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture (MTW) series was co-founded in 1981 by Dr. Price and the late Giles R. Wright, who served many years as the inaugural director of the Afro-American History Program at the New Jersey Historical Commission. Mounted in observance of Black History Month in New Jersey, the MTW Series is one of the nation’s most remarkable and longest running scholarly conference series devoted to the historical literacy of a community. Diverse, civically engaging, and a contribution to life-long learning, the MTW Series has brought to Newark some of the nation’s most significant scholars. They include former Surgeon General of the United States under President Clinton, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Pulitzer Prize winning historian and legal scholar Professor Annette Gordon Reed, Deborah Willis, Sterling Stuckey, Eric Foner, Lonnie Bunch, David Blight, and Nell Painter, among many others. The 30th anniversary conference in 2010, Laboring in the Vineyard: Citizenship and Scholarship, a two-day program, drew over a thousand citizens to the Paul Robeson Campus Center on the Newark Campus.
Recent MTW themes include:
In 2015, Curating Black America, used the imminent grand opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C., to invite a wide-ranging discussion of the ways we remember the black experience and present it to a diverse global audience, especially as the newest resident of the National Mall readies to spotlight such issues for the world. Lonnie Bunch, inaugural Director of the NMAAHC, was the 2015 Marion Thompson Wright Lecturer, and speakers included, Robert Stanton, former director of the National Park Service; Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem; and George McDaniel, Executive Director of the Drayton Hall Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina.
In 2014, Tending the Light: Community Organizing and the Modern Civil Rights Movement, commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by illuminating the history of community organizing in the black freedom struggle, the immense amount of work such struggle entails, and the heroic individuals who take it on. The daylong conference featured Bob Moses, civil rights movement veteran and president and founder of The Algebra Project; Diane Nash, civil rights movement veteran; Charles Payne, the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago; and Barbara Ransby, Professor of History and African-American Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago.
In 2013, Emancipation and the Work of Freedom, explored the ways in which Emancipation immediately impacted enslaved African Americans and, crucially, how the enslaved worked to free themselves. The proceedings also investigated freedom’s wide-ranging impact on the nation at the time of Emancipation, as well as its legacy through the present day. Thavolia Glymph of Duke University, Steven Hahn of the University of Pennsylvania, and James Oakes, of The City University of New York, delivered the Marion Thompson Wright Lectures.
In 2012, Taking Good Care: A History of Health and Wellness in the Black Community, was mounted in collaboration with The Newark Museum’s exhibition, Generation Fit: Steps to a Healthier Lifestyle. The conference explored the centrality of health in the history of black Americans and the intersection of health and race in American life. Dr. Jocelyn Elders, former Surgeon General of the United States under President Clinton, delivered the Marion Thompson Wright Lecture.
In 2011, Beauty and the Black Body: History, Aesthetics, and Politics, examined how African Americans have challenged and reshaped notions of beauty, especially in the realms of art, popular culture, and photography. The conference and reception at the Newark Museum was open to the public without charge. Deborah Willis, professor of Photography and Imaging at New York University, gave the Marion Thompson Wright Lecture, in conjunction with her current exhibition, Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present, which at the time was on display at The Newark Museum. Conference attendees were invited to visit The Newark Museum to view the “Posing Beauty “exhibition at a special free reception immediately following the MTW conference.