Environmental Justice Focus of Fall 2022 Wilson Distinguished Lecture

 August 25, 2022

The Fall 2022 Robert R. Wilson Distinguished Lecture features Duke alumnus and civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. in conversation with Catherine Coleman Flowers, an environmental and climate justice activist and 2020 MacArthur Fellow. They will discuss "Environmental Justice: Past, Present, and Future" at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15 at Duke Chapel and via livestream.

This talk will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Warren County protests in North Carolina. The nonviolent protests in 1982 surrounded the state's disposal of soil laced with PCBs in the predominately Black community. The protests were considered among the earliest for environmental justice in the United States. 

Chavis is credited for coining the term "environmental racism," which he declared from his prison cell after being arrested during the protests. Chavis will discuss the past, present and future of environmental justice with Catherine Coleman Flowers, activist and recent McArthur Genius Grant awardee.

A North Carolina native, Chavis is an entrepreneur, global business leader, educator, chemist, civil rights leader, NAACP Life Member, syndicated columnist, theologian, and author is currently the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA): The Black Press of America. Chavis is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. He began his career in 1963, as a statewide youth coordinator in NC for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He earned his Master of Divinity, M.Div., magna cum laude, from Duke University. 

Flowers, one of America’s most respected and influential environmental and social justice activists, has been appointed Practitioner-in-Residence at Duke University. Flowers, who was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2020 to support her advocacy for disenfranchised rural communities, began her three-year residency at Duke July 1.

Event partners include the Sanford School of Public Policy, the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute. 

In addition to support via the Wilson Distinguished Lecture, this event is also supported by the Reckoning with Race and Racism in the American South grant and the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic. This event is a part of a larger series of lectures and celebrations of environmental justice this fall at Duke University.

RSVP for the Sept. 15 event.

For questions about this event, email


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