News & Events

30 October 2023

The Grace of Repair: eminent American historian and academic leader to deliver the 2023 Distinguished Fulbright Lecture on racial justice and racial healing

Professor Earl Lewis of the University of Michigan looks to the past on both sides of the Atlantic -- from the 18th century slave ship origins of “Amazing Grace” to the singing of that hymn by President Barack Obama to mourners grieving the 2015 racist murders of Black parishioners in Charleston -- to ask how, in this highly fractionated age, we can build grace-filled communities that embrace both difference and inclusivity.

The Grace of Repair is the 13th annual Distinguished Fulbright Lecture and will take place on the 30th of November at the University of Edinburgh.

The US-UK Fulbright Commission has been promoting peace and cultural understanding through educational exchange since it was established in 1948 after a brutal war. Exactly three-quarters of a century later, there has probably never been a greater need for such programmes as social divisions, economic inequalities and international tensions affect ever greater numbers of people against a backdrop of post-pandemic economic malaise, racism and climate change.

For this Fulbright Distinguished Lecture at the University of Edinburgh, Professor Lewis will explore key moments in US and UK history to examine how individuals and institutions have sought to repair the impact of slavery and systemic racism and invite us to consider how we build grace-filled communities and secure a just future.

The event is part of the US-UK Fulbright Commission’s celebration of 75 years of impact in creating a global network of change makers and sector leaders through international exchange. The evening lecture and drinks reception to be held at 50 George Square, Edinburgh and online, welcomes the public alongside members of the US government, students, University faculty and Fulbright alumni to hear from Professor Lewis.

Professor Earl Lewis is the Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies, and Public Policy at the University of Michigan and the founding director of the university’s Center for Social Solutions. From March 2013-2018, he served as president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. An author and esteemed social historian, he is past president of the Organization of American Historians.

Maria Balinska, Executive Director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission said:

“We are honoured and delighted that Professor Lewis is delivering this year’s Distinguished Lecture. The topic underlines that the Fulbright Commission’s work is just as relevant now as it was when it was created after World War II. We are facing immense global challenges. International educational exchange programmes like ours are essential to helping address urgent issues such as racial injustice and inequality as they have the power to change our ways of thinking, to foster connections across borders, and to develop compassionate leaders who are committed to working together.”

This is a free event, run in collaboration with US-UK Fulbright Commission, University of Edinburgh, University of Oxford, Pembroke College, King’s College London and The Lois Roth Foundation.

To join the event, please register here. A live stream will also be available for those who cannot attend in person.

About the US-UK Fulbright Commission

The US-UK Fulbright Commission works to advance knowledge, promote civic engagement and develop compassionate leaders through education exchange between the peoples of the US and the UK. A 1948 treaty between the US and the UK governments specifically established the US-UK programme, one of the first bilateral Fulbright commissions in the world. Over the last 75 years, it has offered immersive education exchange programmes on both sides of the Atlantic that span generations, investing in human potential, advancing knowledge and bringing together the diverse perspectives of the UK and the US to address shared challenges. Postgraduate, academic and professional awards cover study, travel and living costs and, to date, have been granted to over 25,000 recipients, many of whom would not otherwise have had the opportunity to develop their knowledge and expertise internationally.

About the Distinguished Lecture

Since 2011, the US-UK Fulbright Commission has held the annual Fulbright Distinguished Lecture Series in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, King’s College London, Pembroke College, the University of Oxford and the Lois Roth Foundation. Each year the Distinguished Lectures feature a prominent speaker in international relations, presenting on contemporary issues and themes in international life. Previous speakers include:

2022 – The Urgency of Climate action, delivered by John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

2021 – Preventing the Next Pandemic, delivered by Devi Sridhar, Professor of Global Public Health, University of Edinburgh

2020 – A Future in Question: Higher Education and the Public Good, delivered by Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California.

2019 - The New “Arrogance of Power”: Global Politics in an Age of Impunity, delivered by David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee