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'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Breaking: Author Christina Sharpe cancels WFU visit following Professor Laura Mullen’s resignation

Sharpe has been hailed as ‘shaping a generation of Black thought’ by the New York Times
Christina Sharpe has received high critical praise for her recent book, “Ordinary Notes.” (Courtesy of the Boston Globe).

Dr. Christina Sharpe, a renowned Black studies scholar, has canceled her speaking event scheduled for Feb. 1 at Wake Forest because of what she described as the university’s “lack of commitment to academic freedom.” 

Professor Laura Mullen, Kenan Chair of the Humanities at Wake Forest, shared with the Old Gold & Black a statement written by Sharpe and sent by her agent that says “in light of [Wake Forest’s] lack of commitment to academic freedom and the resignation of Professor Laura Mullen, I will no longer be visiting.” Mullen announced her resignation to her poetry workshop class last Tuesday. 

Sharpe and her agent did not return the Old Gold & Black’s request for comment in time for publication. 

Mullen did not elaborate on her reasons for resigning, but over the past two weeks, she has received intense criticism and threats to her personal safety following a post she published to her personal X account on Oct. 12. Wake Forest President Susan Wente and Provost Michele Gillespie released a statement on behalf of the university about Mullen’s tweets, saying that while Mullen had a right to free speech, they “do not condone or support” the views expressed in her post. 

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The event description said she would read from her work, answer questions from the audience and sign copies of her books. Mullen is listed as the contact for the event on the university calendar. Mullen did not respond to the Old Gold & Black’s request for an interview to answer further questions on the event in time for publication.  

The Humanities Institute at Wake Forest, which helped fund the Sharpe event, hosted two reading groups this semester so students could engage with Sharpe’s work in advance of her visit. Sharpe is a professor of English literature and Black Studies at York University in Toronto, Canada. She has authored three books, her most famous one being “In the Wake: On Blackness and Being.” 

“Sharpe’s work is really important right now in the humanities and in African American Studies,” Dr. Dean Franco, director of the Humanities Institute, said. “A lot of my colleagues are using her work in their classes and had been using it before the invitation was even tendered.” 

This isn’t the first appearance that Sharpe has canceled because of her dissatisfaction with a venue’s dedication to academic freedom. Sharpe withdrew from an event at 92NY, one of New York City’s leading cultural centers, after it canceled an event with novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, who has been critical of Israel.  

“It’s a real shame that our students and faculty don’t have the chance to engage more fulsomely with Sharpe’s work,” Franco said. “That’s what the visit was designed to do is to create that kind of engagement, and we missed that.” 

Update Nov. 9: This story has been updated to reflect that Professor Laura Mullen did not respond to the Old Gold & Black’s request for interview in time for publication. 

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About the Contributor
Christa Dutton
Christa Dutton, Editor-in-Chief
Christa is a junior from Raleigh, North Carolina, majoring English and minoring in journalism and communication. She spends her free time reading, running while listening to podcasts, watching "Survivor" and grabbing coffee with her friends.

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  • B

    billNov 20, 2023 at 5:27 pm

    A 2 for 1 special! Great!!

  • S

    Steve BilsonNov 20, 2023 at 4:49 pm

    WF students are better for Sharpe cancelling her visit. Seriously, how much absurdity can the students absorb in a semester?