MIT Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee

The 40th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast Celebration
was held on
Thursday, February 6, 2014

"Should human rights be determined at the ballot box?"

Speaker

photo of Michael Eric Dyson

Michael Eric Dyson
Best-Selling Author / Scholar / Cultural Critic

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson – who is an American Book Award recipient and two-time NAACP Image Award winner – is one of the nation’s most influential and renowned public intellectuals. He has been named one of the 150 most powerful African Americans by Ebony magazine. The Philadelphia Weekly contends that Dr. Dyson “is reshaping what it means to be a public intellectual by becoming the most visible black academic of his time.”

Dr. Dyson’s pioneering scholarship has had a profound effect on American ideas. His first book, 1993’s Reflecting Black: African American Cultural Criticism, helped establish the field of black American cultural studies. His next book, 1994’s Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X, was named one of the most important African American books of the 20th century. Dr. Dyson’s first book on Martin Luther King, 2000’s I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr., made a significant contribution to King scholarship by recovering the radical legacy of the slain civil rights leader. According to book industry bible Publisher’s Weekly, his 2001 book, Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur, helped to make books on hip hop commercially viable. His 2006 book Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster was the first major book on Katrina and probed the racial and class fallout from the storm. Dr. Dyson’s 2005 New York Times bestseller, Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?, helped to jumpstart a national conversation on the black poor that has been called the most important debate in black America since the historic debate between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. His book, The New York Times best-selling April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Death and How It Changed America, has been hailed by The Washington Post as “an excellent sociological primer on institutionalized racism in America.” His most recent book, Can You Hear Me Now? The Inspiration, Wisdom, and Insight of Michael Eric Dyson, offers a sampling of his sharp wit, profound thought, and edifying eloquence on the enduring problems of humanity, from love to justice, and the latest topics of the day, including race and the presidency. It is both revealing and relevant, and at once thoughtful provoking and uplifting.

Not only has Dr. Dyson taught at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities – including Brown, Chapel Hill, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania – but his influence has carried far beyond the academy into prisons and bookstores, political conventions and union halls, and church sanctuaries and lecture stages across the world.

Dr. Dyson has appeared on nearly every major media outlet, including The Today Show, Nightline, O’Reilly Factor, The Tavis Smiley Show, and Real Time with Bill Maher – and he has cemented his star appeal on such shows as Rap City, Def Poetry Jam, and The Colbert Report. He is also a contributing editor of Time magazine. In addition, he hosts an hour-long news and talk program on NPR, “The Michael Eric Dyson Show,” where he delivers thoughtful analysis of today’s biggest stories from pop culture to race relations.

His powerful work has won him legions of admirers and has made him what The Washington Post terms a “superstar professor.” His fearless and fiery oratory led the Chronicle of Higher Education to declare that with his rhetorical gifts he “can rock classroom and chapel alike.” Dr. Dyson’s eloquent writing inspired Vanity Fair magazine to describe him as “one of the most graceful and lucid intellectuals writing on race and politics today.”

Dr. Dyson is presently University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University where, in 2011, he received widespread attention for his course “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z.” His legendary rise – from welfare father to Princeton Ph.D., from church pastor to college professor, from a factory worker who didn’t start college until he was 21 to a figure who has become what writer Naomi Wolf terms “the ideal public intellectual of our time” – may help explain why author Nathan McCall simply calls him “a street fighter in suit and tie.”