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Jerald Walker: Unbecoming a Slave

Presented with The Streicker Center


“You have seen how a man was made a slave,” Frederick Douglass famously wrote in his autobiographical narrative. “[Y]ou shall see how a slave was made a man.”

In his latest book, How to Make a Slave and Other Essays, Jerald Walker traces a journey parallel to Douglass’s, from his days as a high school dropout drug dealer on the South Side of Chicago, to a place at the table of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the white suburb where he is raising his children and a university professorship.These powerful essays, dubbed “restless” and “brilliant” by the The New York Times, won him a coveted spot on the newspaper’s Best Books of the Year list.

Walker joins us to discuss that sojourn with his signature blend of fury and farce and to talk about the complicated legacy of Michael Jackson, getting medical care while Black, becoming more than the sum of your victimization and the struggle to break free of both personal and social stereotypes.

The author of two previous books, Walker is Professor of Creative Writing at Emerson College. How to Make a Slave and Other Essays was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award.


Hosting presidents, vice presidents, secretaries of state, Supreme Court justices, world leaders, major journalists, and activists, the Streicker Center satisfies the community’s hunger for political understanding and engagement. Broadway stars, Academy Award winners, bestselling authors, film directors, world renowned musicians, comedians, and even magicians quench the thirst for entertainment. From history to culture, food to politics, we celebrate and explore it all. And night after night, the Streicker Center offers opportunities for discussion and debate about the most challenging and important issues of the day, from anti-Semitism, fake news, immigration, and racism.

Event Date: 
Thursday, April 22, 2021 - 6:30pm EDT
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