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Social activist John D'Emilio named first Chancellor's Distinguished Visiting Scholar at UIS

October 3, 2007

Contact: Pat Langley, 217/206-7423, plang1@uis.edu

Picture of John D'Emilio
John D'Emilio

SPRINGFIELD – Noted scholar and social justice activist John D'Emilio, widely considered one of the founders of the field of gay and lesbian studies, has been named the first Chancellor's Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Illinois at Springfield. D'Emilio is professor of history and gender and women's studies at the U of I at Chicago and has worked to promote civil rights and the concerns of sexual minorities for over two decades. As Chancellor's Distinguished Visiting Scholar, he will meet with members of the UIS community and will deliver two free public lectures.

On Tuesday, October 16, D'Emilio will speak on "An Agitator for Justice: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin" at 7 p.m. in Brookens Auditorium, lower level of Brookens Library on the UIS campus. Rustin was an openly gay black man who introduced Martin Luther King Jr. to the principles of non-violence and organized the 1963 march on Washington D.C. where King delivered his "I have a dream" speech. Despite his leadership, Rustin was pushed to the side of the civil rights movement because of his sexual orientation and remains largely unknown today.

On Wednesday, October 17, D'Emilio will speak on "Will the Courts Set Us Free? Reflections on the Same-Sex Marriage Fight," also at 7 p.m. in Brookens Auditorium. In this presentation, D'Emilio will offer his own observations on the current state of gay rights and politics.

D'Emilio is the founding director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force as well as the founding director of its Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. He was a co-signer of an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas, a case challenging the constitutionality of state sodomy statutes, and when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down those laws in June 2003, it quoted D'Emilio's scholarship in the decision. His book Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin (2003) was a nonfiction finalist for the National Book Award, winner of the Stonewall Award of the American Library Association, and a New York Times "Notable Book" of 2003.  His other books include (with co-author Estelle Freedman) Intimate Matters (1997); Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities (1983); Making Trouble: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and the University (1992); and The World Turned: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and Culture (2002).

The Chancellor's Distinguished Visiting Scholar program is designed to enable women and men of outstanding intellectual, creative, and public achievement to become involved in and contribute to the richness of academic life at UIS.  The program invites distinguished scholars, artists, and public figures to campus for visits lasting from several days to a week. Typical activities may include engaging with faculty and students by delivering guest lectures or performances, conducting seminars, participating in symposia, contributing to specific scholarly or creative projects, and being available for informal campus discussions.

For more information about D'Emilio's appearance at UIS, contact Pat Langley, UIS professor of Women & Gender Studies and Legal Studies, at plang1@uis.edu.



The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 42 degree programs: 21 bachelorís, 20 masterís, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.

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