The Waltham Public Library hosted Prof. Chad Williams (HIS, AAAS) on Wednesday, Nov. 10 as the speaker for the last event in their “Year of Black History” series. Williams gave a virtual talk on Zoom about Black veterans in the context of the Nov. 11 Veterans Day holiday. 

According to the library’s website, Dr. Kellie Carter Jackson, associate professor of Africana studies at Wellesley College, served as the advisor for the final speaker lineup for the year-long series. Deborah Hoffman, director of programs and events at the Waltham Public Library, served as the moderator for the engagement. 

The talk explored the symbolic meanings of Black military service from the American Revolution to modern day and how Black veterans have shaped African American history. 

On the featured website page for the series, the library acknowledges the inspiration behind the events, writing, “Our country today is at a moment of racial reckoning. It is [the library’s] belief that local institutions, like the Waltham Public Library, must do [its] part to educate the public about racial inequity, help further the conversation on race, and in doing so, help dismantle systemic racism. Black History is American History.” 

The Wicked Local published an interview with Williams prior to the event. In the article, Williams spoke on how people are uneducated on the extent to which Black people have served in the military, and that many Black veterans struggle uniquely in the fact that, although they serve their country through a major act of civic duty, they are in no ways immune from racism and oppression. 

A recording of the event is available to watch on YouTube. The talk streamed live with the option for viewers to ask questions in real-time. 

Talks through the library series center on eight main topics: historically Black colleges, racial terror lynchings, the history of Black music, mass incarceration, Black activism, slavery and its legacy in health, the history of segregation and Juneteenth. 

In 2010, the UNC Press published Williams’ book, “Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era,” which highlights “the central role of African American soldiers in the global conflict and how they, along with race activists and ordinary citizens, committed to fighting for democracy at home and beyond.”

Next up in the library series is “A Year of Black History: The History of Black Music” on Dec. 1. Charrise Barron, a professor of Africana studies and music at Brown University, will speak on the history of Black music with regard to geographical relocations and political and artistic uprisings and outcries in America. The event will stream live on the Waltham Public Library’s YouTube channel.