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Tavis Smiley to appear at the Zoellner Arts Center

Tavis Smiley, host of the eponymous PBS talk show and author of 29 books, including the New York Times-bestselling What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America, will give a free public presentation in Baker Hall of the Zoellner Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30.

The event is part of the Notations series, which is presented by Lehigh’s Creative Writing Program, the Visiting Lecturers Committee and the Zoellner Arts Center with support from an anonymous donor. Lehigh’s Africana Studies program, the National Endowment for the Humanities and WLVT, the PBS station in Bethlehem, are also providing support.

In addition to his autobiography, Smiley is the coauthor, with David Ritz, of Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Year, which was published earlier this year. He also co-wrote Accountable: Making America As Good As Its Promise (2009) with Stephanie Robinson, and is the author of Doing What's Right: How to Fight for What You Believe—And Make a Difference (2000).

My Journey with Maya, which Smiley co-wrote with Ritz, recounts his long friendship with the late American poet Maya Angelou. Smiley co-wrote The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto with Cornel West, with whom he hosted a radio show from 2010-13.

In 1994, Time magazine named Smiley one of America’s 50 Most Promising Young Leaders; in 2009, the magazine called him one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Ebony Magazine has named Smiley the second leading “change agent” in the world of media behind Oprah Winfrey.

The Tavis Smiley Foundation, which Smiley founded in 1999, helps develop young community leaders. More than 6,500 people have participated in its workshops and conferences.

Smiley has received honorary doctorates from more than a dozen universities, including Indiana University, his alma mater, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in public affairs.

The Notations series strives to give audiences an opportunity “to engage with artists, authors, poets and other literary writers in a collegial atmosphere.”


Story by Kurt Pfitzer


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Tavis Smiley is an acclaimed author, philanthropist and TV host.

Another of Tavis Smiley’s many honors came in 2008, when he received the Du Bois Medal from Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

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