Distinguished journalist, educator and activist Charles E. Cobb will deliver the 2021 African American History Month Lecture on Tuesday, February 23 at 6:30pm via Zoom. Cobb is a founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists.
As a field secretary with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Mississippi from 1962-1967, Cobb originated the idea of Freedom Schools as a part of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. These schools, he wrote, should be designed to “Fill an intellectual and creative vacuum in the lives of young Negro Mississippians.” They needed “to get them to articulate their own desires, demands, and questions…to stand up in classrooms around the state and ask their teachers a real question.” Young people, Cobb believed, had important useful energy that could be applied to the problems in their communities; they could help build movements that would bring about meaningful social change.
He began his journalism career in 1974 as a reporter for WHUR Radio in Washington, DC. In 1976 he joined the staff of National Public Radio as a foreign affairs reporter, bringing to that network its first regular coverage of Africa. From 1985 to 1997 Cobb was a National Geographic staff member, traveling the globe to write stories on places from Eritrea to Russia’s Kuril Islands. On July 24, 2008 the National Association of Black Journalists honored Cobb’s work by inducting him into their Hall of Fame.
Cobb is the coauthor, with civil rights organizer and educator Robert P. Moses, of Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project (2002) and the author of On the Road to Freedom: A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail (2007) and This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible (2014). While a visiting professor of Africana studies at Brown University in the 2000s, he designed and taught a course called “The Organizing Tradition of the Southern Civil Rights Movement.” His current work includes an essay in Ibram Kendi and Keisha Blain’s edited volume 400 Souls: A Community History of African Americans 1619-2019 that will be released in February. His current book project with Duke University Press is tentatively titled Get in the Way!: Protest, Politics and the Movement for Black Lives, which will form the foundation for his lecture.
UNC’s African American History Month Lecture is an annual tradition that brings leading scholars and activists whose work centers on the lives of African Americans from both historical and contemporary perspectives. The lecture is open to the entire campus as well as the surrounding community and is the University’s major programming initiative to recognize the importance of African American histories nationally, statewide and on campus.