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Award-winning playwright and author Samuel Hay, visiting professor of government and law and one of the leading scholars in black drama in the U.S., will give a brown bag lecture titled “The Life of Mary McCleod Bethune” noon today in Interfaith Chapel, Hogg Hall.

Free and open to the public, the talk is part of Lafayette’s celebration of Black History Month. Attendees may purchase a deli lunch for $3 or bring their own.

Author of the play Mary McCleod Bethune, Hay will lecture primarily on the political heroine’s influence as presidential adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“Bethune had an incredibly fascinating personality,” says Hay. “As a young person, she was passionate about becoming a missionary in Africa and went to school for that purpose alone. She was denied the opportunity after graduation because the church did not accept Negro missionaries. So, Bethune turned her full attention to initiating change in the United States. She went from one organization to the next, turning each into a powerful voice for social change using her leadership skills.”

Bethune founded Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fla., and the National Council of Negro Women.

Hay hopes that students will come away from the lecture being more tolerant of people and their ambitions. He explains that Bethune’s story teaches “one to never allow personal disappointments to become a setback, for they can be used as motivation to achieve better things.”

Founder of the National Conference of African American Theater, Inc., Hay is the author of African American Theatre: A Historical and Critical Analysis and Ed Bullins: A Literary Biography. He has also written 23 produced plays, including Cream and Brown Sugar and David Richmond. Both won the North Carolina Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival and were invited to regional competitions.

Hay’s was listed in Who’s Who in America 2002 and has received the Harvard University Foundation Medallion, The Arena Players Award, and the A&T Theatre Division’s Susan B. Dudley Founder’s Award and Distinguished Scholar Award. He belongs to Association for Theater in Higher Education, National Association of Schools of Theater, Black Theater Network, National Association of Dramatic and Speech Arts, and National Conference on African American Theater.

Hay served as interim chair of the department of performing visual arts and theater at North Carolina A&T, and also held positions on the faculty of University of California-Berkeley, Morgan State University, Washington University, Purdue University, and University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

In many respects, Hay’s presence makes Lafayette’s government and law department unique, according to John McCartney, associate professor and head of government and law.

“I believe we’re the only college of our caliber in the country to teach politics and literature as a discipline,” he says. “Professor Hay is a tremendous asset because he feeds into so many areas, including English and Africana Studies. Lafayette benefits from his ability to work with students and enhance their college experience.”

“He makes our Africana Studies program one of the best among colleges in the country,” adds McCartney. “Our program definitely is the best in the Lehigh Valley – I don’t think anyone else comes close.”

Hay has directed plays at North Carolina A&T, BMT Theatre in Oakland, Morgan State University, Purdue University, and University of Maryland. He has served as guest editor for Chicory: A Magazine of Black Writing, Footprints: Anthology of Black Student Writings, and Deep: Poetry and Things. He has written essays for publications such as Black Theatre Network Journal, African American Review, Black Women Writers, Media and Methods, Negro History Bulletin, Maryland English Journal, Black World, and several programs for annual Conferences on African American Theatre.

He has presented lectures, papers, and presentations at dozens of conferences, including “Black Theatre during the Harlem Renaissance” last year at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Hay has served as archivist of the Ed Bullins Collection, Greensboro, N.C.; artistic director of Cottage Theatre, Riviera Beach, Fla., and Bullins Memorial Theater, Oakland, Calif.; professor of literature at Indiana State Prison, Michigan City; and curriculum adviser at West Jupiter (Fla.) Prep School.

Hay earned a Ph.D. in theater history and criticism from Cornell University in 1971, a master’s in playwriting from Johns Hopkins University in 1967, and a bachelor’s in both speech & drama and English from Bethune-Cookman College in 1959. He has conducted studies of psychodrama and American literature at Atlanta University, English for the disadvantaged at Goucher College, and summer repertory theater at University of California-Santa Barbara.

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