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American Culture

Betty Ch'maj Distinguished American Studies Lecture

We are delighted to announce that Emily Lordi, an Associate Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, will deliver the inaugural Betty Ch’maj Distinguished American Studies Lecture, an annual event established to honor the legacy of Ch’maj, the first Ph.D. of the American Culture program at the University of Michigan. Professor Lordi is the author of Black Resonance: Iconic Women Singers and African American Literature (2013), and Donny Hathaway Live (2016), and has contributed to The New Yorker, The Atlantic, NPR, The Root, and The Fader. Her lecture will draw from her forthcoming book, Keeping On: Soul, Black Music, Resilience.

About the Betty Ch’maj Lecture: With generous support from the Ch’maj family, the Annual Betty Ch’maj Distinguished American Studies Lecture Series was established in 2018 to honor the legacy of Betty Ch’maj. Ch’maj received the very first Ph.D. in American Culture in 1961 at Michigan. She went on to research and publish on American literature and music, founding the Radical Caucus of ASA and working to challenge systemic gender discrimination in American Studies programs.

University Origins

The Department of American Culture acknowledges the university’s origins in a land grant from the Anishinaabeg (including Odawa, Ojibwe, and Boodewadomi) and Wyandot, and we further acknowledge that our university stands, like almost all property in the United States, on lands obtained, generally in unconscionable ways, from indigenous peoples. Knowing where we are changes neither the past nor the present. However, through scholarship and pedagogy we work to create a future in which the past is thoroughly understood and the present supports human flourishing and justice while enacting an ethic of care and compassion.


We strive to support our students and faculty on the frontlines of learning and research; to steward our planet, our community, our campus. To do this, American Culture needs you—because the world needs Victors.