Shannon Muller, Guest Writer~

Dr. Marcia Chatelain gave her lecture “Better Living Through the Humanities: Teaching, Research and Social Change” at the Ida Wise East Memorial Lecture on Feb. 6 in Lynchburg College’s newly-renovated Memorial Ballroom.

Chatelain is an associate professor of history and African-American studies at Georgetown University. She is a recipient of Georgetown University’s Dorothy M. Brown Teaching Award and was named Top Influencer in Higher Education by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2016.

Chatelain is also the author of  “South Side Girls: Growing up in the Great Migration” and is currently writing a book about race and fast food, “From Sit-In to Drive-Thru: Black America in the Age of Fast Food.”

Although Chatelain is a professor, she is also a professional speaker and commenter on current events and social issues across media outlets such as The New York Times, NPR and CNN.

The Ida Wise East Lecture series was established in 1979 by an endowment gift from Margaret East Nelson of Norfolk, VA, in memory of her mother, Ida Wise East, and in recognition of the lifelong interest of the East and Nelson families in the humanities.

Chatelain was chosen to give the lecture this year by the John Franklin East Humanities Professor, Dr. Nichole Sanders.

Dr. Marcia Chatelain. Retrieved from
Dr. Marcia Chatelain. Retrieved from

“I was looking for someone who had used her training in the humanities to do things outside the academy to show students how vital the humanities are to public life and social justice work,” said Sanders.

Dr. Chatelain’s lecture focused on experiences in her life where humanities gave her the tools for better living and social action. Her lecture discussed the research and experiences behind her book “South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration,” her #fergusonsyllabus twitter movement and the podcast she co-hosted, titled “The Killing of Freddie Gray.”

“As a historian, the humanities are central to the way I make sense of the world around me, “said Chatelain.

Chatelain answered questions from audience members about social media, the relationship between slave ownership and universities and the correlation between slavery and religion.

“We can’t take for granted that we are in a moment that we know slavery is wrong,” she said in her lecture.

“I just hope that people understand that they can’t trash the arts, and they can’t belittle the social sciences because these fields allow us to grow as people and as a society,” she said.