African American Studies trailblazers Irene Smalls, Vernon Smith to speak at MSU

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

Vernon Smith (Submitted photo)Irene Smalls (Submitted photo)

STARKVILLE, Miss.— Two trailblazing figures of the 1960s Black Studies movement in higher education are speaking Monday [Jan. 23] at Mississippi State University.

Taking place at 7 p.m. in the Colvard Student Union second-floor Bill R. Foster Ballroom, Irene Smalls’ and Vernon Smith’s presentations are sponsored by the African American Studies program, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary at MSU.

Each presentation will be moderated by MSU Associate Professor of English and African American Studies Donald Shaffer. A question-and-answer-session will follow both presentations.

Smalls, an award-winning author, historian and literacy entrepreneur, will present “(Re)Telling Our Story: Reading and Discussion.”  A native of Harlem, New York, she holds a bachelor's in black studies from Cornell University and master’s in business administration from New York University. She is a founding member and first president of her alma mater’s Black Alumni Association and its Wari House residence for undergraduate women of color. She initiated and directed the first sit-ins and demonstration that led to the takeover of Cornell’s Student Union, Willard Straight Hall. Smalls has penned 15 books for black children and twice has performed her stories by invitation at the White House. For more, visit

A native of Natchez, Smith will give a presentation titled “On Strike Shut It Down: The 1960s Call for Black Studies.” He studied journalism and radio-TV-film production at San Francisco State University (formerly College), and was a member of the Black Student Union and a participant in the student-led strike that led to the founding of the nation’s first Black Studies Department and School of Ethnic Studies. After completing the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1969, he began his journalism career as a reporter for the California Independent Press-Telegram. He worked as a correspondent for Newsweek magazine and won the Detroit Press Club Foundation’s annual magazine writing award for an article titled “Detroit’s Heroin Subculture.” He later became Newsweek’s Atlanta Bureau chief and a national correspondent.

For more information, contact LaShundra Townsend, African American Studies administrative assistant, at 662-325-0587 and

Part of the College of Arts and Sciences, MSU’s African American Studies program offers courses leading to a minor in African American Studies. For more, visit

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