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Common Read

Author Colson Whitehead speaks at U of I’s Black History Month observance

Colson Whitehead, whose novel “The Underground Railroad” won the National Book Award and the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, spoke Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at the University of Idaho. His free public lecture, “Revisiting the Underground Railroad,” was part of the university’s observance of Black History Month.  

“We are thrilled that Mr. Whitehead spoke about his remarkable book for our students, faculty and community members,” said Kenton Bird, a faculty member in the UI’s School of Journalism and Mass Media, who helped to organize the author’s visit.

“The Underground Railroad” chronicles the adventures of Cora, a teenage slave, as she seeks freedom in the South in the years before the Civil War. Historically, the Underground Railroad was a network of safehouses used to help slaves escape to freedom in the northern states and Canada. In Whitehead’s novel, engineers and conductors operate a secret system of underground tracks and tunnels for this purpose.

While on campus, Whitehead spoke to classes and met with leaders of the Black Student Union and other student organizations.

Whitehead’s visit was sponsored by the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, the Runstad Lecture Series, the Office of Equity and Diversity, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the School of Journalism and Mass Media, the departments of English, History and Sociology-Anthropology, and the Latah County Human Rights Task Force. His lecture is made possible by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, the state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Colson Whitehead with students
Colson Whitehead with U of I and Moscow students. Photo by Alejandra “Vivi” Gonzalez
Colson Whitehead speaks at University of Idaho Black History Event
Colson Whitehead speaks on “Revisiting the Underground Railroad” as part of the university’s observance of Black History Month. Photo by Alejandra “Vivi” Gonzalez


The Common Read is a program designed to engage the university and Moscow community, its students, staff, faculty and community members, in a unified intellectual activity. For first-year students it introduces them to academic expectations, respectful discourse, and community building. The Common Read is supported by the Judith M. Runstad Lecture Series, which sponsors a keynote address by the author of the Common Read, or someone closely associated with the book. First-year students will be asked to read the book as part of their ISEM 101 Integrated Seminar requirements. The Common Read book is available through the UI VandalStore - Bookstore.

This is a program sponsored through the General Education program, supported by the Office of Student Affairs, and a host of faculty, staff and student members on the Common Read Committee.

General Education

Physical Address:
Administration Building 104

Mailing Address:
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3154
Moscow, ID 83844-3154

Phone: 208-885-9025


Web: General Education