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The Ann Thomas Memorial Lecture Series


Ann Thomas was a wonderful, optimistic, courageous, and genuinely kind woman, and a dedicated patron of the library and library programs. After she passed on February 22, 2019 (having bravely battled cancer and endured suffering for many years), we decided to create an annual memorial lecture series at the library in her honor.

[Left: Ann's granddaughter, Carrie Ann, with Dr. William Turner, Feb. 22, 2022]

Dr. Joe Trotter, 2020

Our first speaker was Dr. Joe Trotter, the Giant Eagle University Professor of History and Social Justice and past History Department Chair at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is also the Director and Founder of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy (CAUSE), President Elect of the Urban History Association and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Trotter received his BA degree from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota. He talked about his book, Workers on Arrival: Black Labor in the Making of America on Feb. 18, 2020. Watch the video of Dr. Trotter's talk on YouTube.

Crystal Wilkinson, 2021

Our second speaker, on Feb. 23, 2021, was Crystal Wilkinson, the award-winning author of The Birds of Opulence (winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence) and Associate Professor of English in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at the University of Kentucky. Watch the video of Crystal's talk on YouTube

Dr. William H. Turner, 2022

Our third speaker, William H. Turner, PhD, is the fifth of ten children, and was born in 1946 in the coal town of Lynch, Kentucky, in Harlan County. His grandfathers, father, four uncles and older brother were coal miners. He spent his professional career studying and working on behalf of marginalized communities, helping them create opportunities in the larger world while not abandoning their important cultural ties. Dr. Turner discussed his book, The Harlan Renaissance, an intimate remembrance of kinship and community in eastern Kentucky’s coal towns. Turner reconstructs Black life in the company towns in and around Harlan County during coal’s final postwar boom years, which built toward an enduring bust as the children of Black miners, like the author, left the region in search of better opportunities.

Watch Dr. Turner's lecture on YouTube. [Note: please excuse audio difficulties for the first 9 minutes]

Michelle Duster, 2023

For the 4th Annual Ann Thomas Memorial Lecture (also dedicated in 2023 to Wheeling educator Eileen Miller) Lunch With Books was honored to host Michelle Duster, an author, speaker, public historian, professor, and champion of racial and gender equity. Michelle is the great-granddaughter of Civil Rights pioneer, journalist, and suffragist, Ida B. Wells. She has written, edited, or contributed to several dozen articles and over 20 books, including IDA B THE QUEEN: THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE AND LEGACY OF IDA B WELLS.

Watch the video of Michelle's Lecture on YouTube:

Alvin Hall, 2024

We are pleased to announce that Alvin Hall, internationally renowned financial educator, television and radio broadcaster, bestselling author, and regular contributor to magazines, newspapers, and websites, will be the Ann Thomas Memorial lecturer at Lunch With Books at the Ohio County Public Library on February 20, 2024.

Mr. Hall will discuss his latest book, Driving the Green Book: A Road Trip Through the Living History of Black Resistance, Hardcover, Ebook, Digital Audio Book Unabridged, 304 pages, HarperCollins Publishers (21 Feb. 2023),  a journey through America's haunted racial past, with the legendary Green Book as your guide.

For countless Americans, the open road has long been a place where dangers lurk. In the era of Jim Crow, Black travelers encountered locked doors, hostile police, and potentially violent encounters almost everywhere, in both the South and the North. From 1936 to 1967, millions relied on The Negro Motorist Green Book, the definitive guide to businesses where they could safely rest, eat, or sleep.

Alvin Hall set out to revisit the world of the Green Book. With his friend Janée Woods Weber, he drove from New York to Detroit to New Orleans, visiting motels, restaurants, shops, and stores where Black Americans once found a friendly welcome. They explored historical and cultural landmarks, from the theatres and clubs where stars like Duke Ellington and Lena Horne performed to the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Along the way, they gathered memories from some of the last living witnesses for whom the Green Book meant survival—remarkable people who not only endured but rose above the hate, building vibrant Black communities against incredible odds.

Driving the Green Book is a vital work of national history as well as a hopeful chronicle of Black resilience and resistance.

The book contains 25 outstanding black and white photos and ephemera.

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