Wagner College’s 2016 Black History Month Scholar is award-winning journalist Pamela Newkirk. She will open the college’s celebration of Black History Month with a lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. in Spiro Hall 2. The program is free, and the public is invited.
Pamela Newkirk is a professor at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Her most recent book, “Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga” (Amistad, 2015), traces the journey of Ota Benga from the Congo to the United States where, at the turn of the 20th century, he was exhibited at the St. Louis World’s Fair and the Bronx Zoo Monkey House. She exposes the true circumstances of his capture and captivity, which have been sanitized in contemporary accounts, and illuminates why, a century later, the man most responsible for his exploitation has been widely depicted as his friend and savior. “Spectacle” casts a spotlight on race, science, and elite men and institutions during the early years of the 20th century.
Newkirk is also editor of “Letters from Black America” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2009; Beacon Press, 2011) and “A Love No Less: Two Centuries of African American Love Letters” (Doubleday 2004). She is also the author of “Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media” (NYU Press 2000), which won the National Press Club Award for Media Criticism.
Growing up in New York City, Newkirk was surrounded by black memorabilia from her father, an antique dealer who collected posters, letters, books, and photographs depicting African-American life. This ephemera became a life-long source of inspiration for Newkirk, who developed a keen interest in the unexplored history of the African Diaspora.
Newkirk began her journalism career writing for various African-American newspapers and eventually landed her first job as a daily reporter for the Knickerbocker News in Albany, New York, where she eventually covered the New York State Legislature. From there, she went to Washington, D.C., as a Capitol Hill correspondent for Gannett News Service. Later, she worked for newspapers in New York City. Among her assignments was the coverage of the election of David Dinkins, the city’s first African-American mayor. She also traveled to South Africa and witnessed Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Her series of articles was awarded the International Reporting Award from the New York Association of Black Journalists. Two years later, in 1992, Newkirk was on the New York Newsday reporting team awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Spot News for coverage of a fatal subway crash. In 1993, she joined the faculty at New York University and continued contributing articles to numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, the Nation, ARTnews, Essence, and the Defenders Online civil rights blog.
Pamela Newkirk holds a B.A. in journalism from New York University and later received her master’s degree in journalism and a Ph.D. in comparative and international education from Columbia University. She is professor of journalism and director of undergraduate studies at NYU’s Carter Journalism Institute and is the extremely proud mother of Marjani and Mykel Nairne. She lives in New York City with her husband Michael and dog Miso.
The annual Black History Month Scholar’s Address is a campus-wide collaboration between faculty and administrators, sponsored in part by the Wagner College Provost’s Office, the Campus Life Office, the college’s centers for Spirituality and Intercultural Advancement, and the Office of Co-Curricular Programs. For more information, phone 718-390-3423.