Michael Eric Dyson

presents

What Truth Sounds Like:
Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America

in conversation with DERAY MCKESSON

This event includes a book signing

Date

Jun
6
Wednesday
June 6, 2018
7:00 PM
(Doors at 6:30)

Location

First Parish Church
1446 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

$26.25 (online only, book included) - On Sale Now $5.00 - On Sale Now

Harvard Book Store and Mass Humanities welcome acclaimed writer and Georgetown professor MICHAEL ERIC DYSON for a discussion of his latest book, What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America. He will be joined in conversation by prominent civil rights activist DERAY MCKESSON.

About What Truth Sounds Like

In 2015 BLM activist Julius Jones confronted Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with an urgent query: “What in your heart has changed that’s going to change the direction of this country?” “I don’t believe you just change hearts,” she protested. “I believe you change laws.”

The fraught conflict between conscience and politics—between morality and power—in addressing race hardly began with Clinton. An electrifying and traumatic encounter in the sixties crystallized these furious disputes.

In 1963 Attorney General Robert Kennedy sought out James Baldwin to explain the rage that threatened to engulf black America. Baldwin brought along some friends, including playwright Lorraine Hansberry, psychologist Kenneth Clark, and a valiant activist, Jerome Smith. It was Smith’s relentless, unfiltered fury that set Kennedy on his heels, reducing him to sullen silence.

Kennedy walked away from the nearly three-hour meeting angry—that the black folk assembled didn’t understand politics, and that they weren’t as easy to talk to as Martin Luther King. But especially that they were more interested in witness than policy. But Kennedy’s anger quickly gave way to empathy, especially for Smith. “I guess if I were in his shoes…I might feel differently about this country.” Kennedy set about changing policy—the meeting having transformed his thinking in fundamental ways.

There was more: every big argument about race that persists to this day got a hearing in that room. Smith declaring that he’d never fight for his country given its racist tendencies, and Kennedy being appalled at such lack of patriotism, tracks the disdain for black dissent in our own time. His belief that black folk were ungrateful for the Kennedys’ efforts to make things better shows up in our day as the charge that black folk wallow in the politics of ingratitude and victimhood. The contributions of black queer folk to racial progress still cause a stir. BLM has been accused of harboring a covert queer agenda. The immigrant experience, like that of Kennedy—versus the racial experience of Baldwin—is a cudgel to excoriate black folk for lacking hustle and ingenuity. The questioning of whether folk who are interracially partnered can authentically communicate black interests persists. And we grapple still with the responsibility of black intellectuals and artists to bring about social change.

What Truth Sounds Like exists at the tense intersection of the conflict between politics and prophecy—of whether we embrace political resolution or moral redemption to fix our fractured racial landscape. The future of race and democracy hang in the balance.

Praise

“Dyson has finally written the book I always wanted to read. I had the privilege of attending the meeting he has insightfully written about, and it’s as if he were a fly on the wall . . . a tour de force . . . a poetically written work that calls on all of us to get back in that room and to resolve the racial crises we confronted more than fifty years ago.” —Harry Belafonte

“Dyson masterfully refracts our present racial conflagration through a subtle reading of one of the most consequential meetings about race to ever take place. In so doing, he reminds us that Black artists and intellectuals bear an awesome responsibility to speak truth to power." —Robin D. G. Kelley

"Everybody who speaks after Michael Eric Dyson pales in comparison.” —President Barack Obama

DeRay Mckesson
DeRay Mckesson

DeRay Mckesson

DeRay Mckesson is a civil rights activist, community organizer, and the host of Crooked Media's Pod Save the People. Starting his career as an educator, he came to prominence for his role in documenting the Ferguson protests, and for publicly advocating for justice for the victims of police violence as well as for the end of mass incarceration. He was named #11 on Fortune's World's Greatest Leaders list and Harvard's Black Man of the Year in 2016, among many other accolades. A leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement and the co-founder of Campaign Zero, a policy platform to end police violence, he lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Michael Eric Dyson
Michael Eric Dyson

Michael Eric Dyson

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is a Georgetown University sociology professor, a New York Times contributing opinion writer, and a contributing editor of The New Republic, and of ESPN's The Undefeated.

All pre-sales tickets include a copy of What Truth Sounds Like, admission into the event, and a $5 coupon for use in the bookstore. Pre-sales tickets (online only) become available first, after which a $5 ticket option will also go on sale. Books bundled with pre-sale tickets may only be picked up at the venue the night of the event, and cannot be picked up in-store beforehand.

$5 tickets will also be available at Harvard Book Store and over the phone at 617-661-1515. Unless the event is sold out, any remaining tickets will be on sale at the door of the venue when doors open.

Tickets are non-refundable and non-returnable.

First Parish Church
1446 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, cross Mass. Ave. and look for the newsstand called Crimson Corner. Turn right and proceed north along Mass. Ave. going toward the Cambridge Common. You will pass the Harvard Coop, Bank of America, and CVS. The First Parish Church is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Church St. Please enter through the front door of the church.

Unable to attend a Harvard Book Store author event? You can still pre-order a signed book by one of our visiting authors.

While we can't guarantee fulfillment of a signed book pre-order, our authors are almost always able to sign extra books to fulfill such orders.

Ordering a signed book on harvard.com:

  • Add the book to your shopping cart and then click Checkout.
  • Specify in Order Comments that you want a signed copy of the book.
  • Please note: online orders for signed copies must be placed at least one business day before the event. If you are ordering the day of, please call us instead.

Ordering a signed book by phone:

  • Call us at (617) 661-1515 and one of our booksellers will take your order. Specify you'd like a signed copy.
  • If you are requesting a personalized inscription and/or requesting your book be shipped, we'll need to take down credit card information. If you are planning to pick up the signed book in the store, you can pay on pick-up.

FAQ:

Can I request a personalized inscription?
Unless otherwise noted, we are happy to take requests for the author to sign your book to a specific person, but we can't guarantee it. If you do get a personalized inscription, the book will be non-returnable. We will require credit card information when you place the order.

Do signed books cost more?
There is no extra fee for a signed book!

Do I have to pick it up in the store, or can you deliver my signed book?
As with all web or phone orders, we can hold your book for in-store pickup, or ship it anywhere in the country.

I am planning to attend an author event. Do I need to pre-order a book?
No need. We'll be selling books at the event, and nearly all of our events include a signing at the end of the talk.

More questions? Give us a call!

Co-Sponsored by Mass Humanities

Mass Humanities

Mass Humanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. Learn more at masshumanities.org.

Purchase the Book
Featured event books will be for sale at the event. Thank you for supporting this author series with your purchases.
General Info
(617) 661-1515
info@harvard.com

Media Inquiries
mediainquiries@harvard.com

Accessibility Inquiries
access@harvard.com

Our Frequent Buyer Card

Members of our Frequent Buyer Program receive benefits at Harvard Book Store and harvard.com. Sign up for free!

Learn More »

Subscribe

Author event updates +
book recommendations.
In your inbox, once a week.

Learn More »

Shipping & Delivery

Shipping rates
and options, locally
and throughout
the U.S.

Learn More »