Skip to main content
Event Details

Jelani Cobb: Civil Rights in the Age of Trump

17 July 2019
6.30pm – 7.45pm AEST
Sir John Clancy Auditorium, UNSW Sydney
This event has ended
Jelan Cobb potrait

“It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of this moment.” – Martin Luther King 

Jelani Cobb delivers the UNSW Martin Luther King lecture with an introductory performance by the award-winning Boston Children’s Chorus.  

In 1963, Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and declared that, with faith “we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony”. Despite King's dream of equality, in 2019 America remains a divided country, still haunted by legacy of slavery. The work of generations of civil rights activists has not eliminated the impact of race on poverty, violence and voting rights – which King spoke of as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. His “beautiful symphony” is still a long way off. 

Writer and educator Jelani Cobb is a long-time staff writer at The New Yorker, where his work brings to life the intricate complexities of race in America. At a time characterised by derision and disunion, his work is celebrated for welcoming conversation and dialogue. Who better to guide us through the struggle for civil rights in Trump’s America? 

Dr Martin Luther King Jr & UNSW 

In 2018, the first public sculpture in Australia honouring the life and legacy of American civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr was installed among fellow human rights champions on the Library Lawn at UNSW Sydney.  

Created by sculptor Zenos Frudakis the bust is a tribute to Dr King, whose leadership of the African American civil rights movement saw him awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Inscribed on the sculpture’s plinth is Dr King’s quote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” The bust is part of an ongoing UNSW project to honour inspiring leaders, and was made possible through the generosity of UNSW alumni in North America and the UNSW US Foundation, the US Embassy Canberra, the US Consulate Sydney, the King Center for Non-Violent Social Change, the US Trumpet Awards, the Australian Embassy in Washington DC, and the US State Department. 

Boston Children’s Chorus

The Boston Children's Chorus harnesses the power and joy of music to unite Boston's diverse communities and inspire social change. Their singers transcend social barriers in a celebration of shared humanity and love of music. Through intensive choral training and high-profile public performance experience, they learn discipline, develop leadership skills, and proudly represent the city of Boston as ambassadors of harmony. The choir presents over 50 performances per season in a wide range of public and private events across Boston and beyond. 


Wheelchair Accessible

Sir John Clancy Auditorium is located at UNSW Sydney's Kensington campus, C24 on this map (PDF). The closest accessible parking is available at Gate 9, High Street.

Hearing Loop Available


The Centre for Ideas can provide Auslan interpreting services for selected talks upon request.


To discuss your access requirements and to book any access services, please call the Centre for Ideas on 02 9385 1000 or email

The Centre for Ideas is happy to receive phone calls via the National Relay Service. TTY users, phone 133 677, then ask for 02 9385 1000. Speak and Listen users, phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 02 9385 1000. Internet relay users, visit, then ask for 02 9385 1000.

Jelani Cobb Portriat

Jelani Cobb

Journalist and educator Jelani Cobb has dedicated his life to exploring the enormous complexity of race in America. A long-time staff writer at The New Yorker, Dr Cobb has written a remarkable series of articles about race, the police, and injustice. His articles include, The Anger in Ferguson, Murders in Charleston, and What We Talk About When We Talk About Reparations. As recipient of the Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion & Analysis Journalism for his New Yorker columns, Cobb was praised for combining “the strengths of an on-the-scene reporter, a public intellectual, a teacher, a vivid writer, a subtle moralist, and an accomplished professional historian”.   

Dr Cobb was formerly Associate Professor of History at the University of Connecticut, where he was director of the Africana Studies Institute, and now teaches in the Colombia University School of Journalism. He has received Fellowships from the Fulbright and Ford Foundations. He is the author of Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic, and The Devil & Dave Chappelle and Other Essays. Jelani has two forthcoming books including a scholarly monograph based on his doctoral thesis, entitled Antidote to Revolution: African American Anticommunism and the Struggle for Civil Rights, 1931–1957.  

For first access to upcoming events and new ideas

Explore past events