Leading African-American scholars spoke about the influence of political scientist Ronald Walters and shared insight about how he viewed Black politics before his death in 2010 at a campus symposium on April 7.
The Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center at Howard University sponsored the symposium on Walters’ intellectual legacy. Walters was a renowned political science scholar and television commentator who served as a Howard professor for 25 years.
The symposium coincided with the recent release of a book of essays centered on Walters’ impact on political science, What Has This Got to Do with the Liberation of Black People?
At the symposium, Elsie L. Scott, Ph.D., director of the Walters Center, announced that Patricia Turner Walters, the widow of Dr. Walters who attended the symposium, would serve as chair of an advisory council at the center.
“Walters derived his legitimacy from his scholarship and extensive and long-standing participation in social struggles,” said Cedric Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of African American Studies and political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “All three of us [editors] grew up at different times, but we came of age with his guidance.”
Johnson served as a symposium panelist along with Robert C. Smith, Ph.D., professor of political science at San Francisco State University; and Robert Newby, Ph.D., professor of sociology emeritus at Central Michigan University. The professors served as editors on the book. What Has This Got to Do with the Liberation of Black People? is a compilation of essays about topics in Black politics, including panAfricanism, and African-American voting power.
The book also includes work by Walters. In the essay, “Civil Rights and the First Black President: Barack Obama and the Politics of Racial Equality,” Walters addressed Black politics in the early period of the Obama presidency. Walters encouraged Black leaders to critically evaluate the administration and build an open dialogue to address Black concerns.
During the symposium, Newby discussed witnessing Walters, his childhood friend, lead one of the country’s first sitins to protest segregation in his hometown of Wichita, Kan., in 1958, years before embarking on his career as a scholar and activist.