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Inaugural Mellon Scholar, a Hendrix Alumnus, Speaking October 18

GerShun_Avilez_02.jpgCONWAY, Ark. (October 9, 2017) – Dr. GerShun Avilez ’02, Hendrix College’s inaugural Mellon Scholar, will present the lecture “Vanishing Acts: Black Labor, Social Absence, & Civil Rights Reform” on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, in the Bertie Wilson Murphy House. The lecture begins at 4:15 p.m. and a reception will follow.

In this talk, Avilez will explore how literary culture takes up the question of civil rights reform in the 1960s, which sought to integrate Black citizens more fully into the social and working world. Avilez argues that literature can help us to recognize the gap between advancements in civil rights policy and the actual lived experiences of target populations. Specifically, he demonstrates how limited employment opportunities reflect impediments to Black civic equality even in the context of legislative reform. He shows how representations of Black labor reveal the unsteady state of Black citizenship. 

After graduating from Hendrix, Avilez earned his M.A. in English from Temple University, followed by a Ph.D. in English and a Graduate Certificate in Africana Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Now serving on the faculty at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Avilez is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature; Director of Graduate Studies, English and Comparative Literature; Director of the UNC Program in Sexuality Studies; and Affiliate Faculty, Institute of African American Research and Department of Women’s & Gender Studies. He has taught at Yale University and held the Frederick Douglass Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Rochester. A cultural studies scholar, he specializes in contemporary African American literature and visual culture, and 20th century American literature in general. 

Avilez’s visit to campus is made possible through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives at Hendrix.

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit