Author Jonathan Kozol to speak about social justice, public service at Wake Forest March 19

Jonathan KozolAuthor and activist Jonathan Kozol will speak at Wake Forest University on March 19 at 8 p.m. in Wait Chapel.

This event is free and open to the public. Kozol will sign copies of his books in the chapel lobby following his address.

A prolific author, Kozol has worked for social justice and education equality for more than 30 years. His newest book, “Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope,” was published in 2000. It is the product of four years of interviews with children, families and teachers in the South Bronx of New York, one of the most violent, dangerous communities in the United States.

A student committee is sponsoring Kozol’s visit with help from several Wake Forest academic and administrative departments. Committee members Maura Proulx, Noelle Shanahan, Jackie Shock, Laura Wray and Kristin Zipple say Kozol’s books have inspired them to consider careers in public service after they graduate from Wake Forest in May.

“While we are among the privileged, inequality runs rampant throughout our world,” Zipple said. “When you think about it, what separates us from people who go to bed hungry or don’t have a place they can call home? How can we who are privileged not do something to help others once we realize the line between a comfortable life and having nothing is so fine? Jonathan Kozol is an inspiration, and we hope his visit will challenge our campus and community in some of the same ways his message has challenged the five of us.”

Kozol’s career as an activist began in 1967, when he accepted a teaching position in a poor, black section of Boston after graduating from Harvard University. After he was fired for reading a Langston Hughes poem to his fourth-grade class, he wrote a book about his experiences at the school titled “Death At An Early Age.” It won the National Book Award and has sold more than two million copies around the world.

Kozol then began teaching in a white, suburban school near Boston. He was shocked at the disparities he saw between that school and the inner-city school where he started his teaching career. Kozol began combining teaching with activism.

He next taught at South Boston High School during the city’s desegregation crisis. Working with a group of minority parents, he set up a storefront learning center that has since become the model for numerous others through the United States.

In 1980, the Cleveland Public Library asked Kozol to design a literacy plan for the nation’s large cities. His plan became the model for a major effort sparked by the State Library of California. Kozol’s next book, “Illiterate America,” launched a campaign to spur state, federal and private sector action to fight adult illiteracy.

In 1985, Kozol spent an evening at a homeless shelter in New York. He turned the conversations he had with mothers and children there into his third book, “Rachel and her Children: Homeless Families in America,” a narrative portrayal of the daily struggles of some of the poorest people in the nation. The book won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 1989, and the Conscience in Media Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Kozol has won numerous awards for his other books, including, “Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools” and “Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation.” “Amazing Grace” was a national best-seller and won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1996.

In a review of Kozol’s work, Nobel Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel wrote, “What he (Kozol) says must be heard. His outcry must shake our nation out of its guilty indifference.”

For more information about Kozol’s visit at Wake Forest, call the Volunteer Services office at 336-758-4549.

Editor’s note: Jonathan Kozol will be available for interviews March 19 from 4:30-5 p.m. Please contact the News Service to schedule an appointment.

Categories: Events, Speakers, University Announcement