Brooklyn College is pleased to announce Deborah Willis as its 2023 Franklin Day Speaker. Willis—an educator, photographer, curator, artist, author, and historian—will lead a discussion based on the visual archives of Black History on February 22 in the Library (Room 411) at 11 a.m. This event is being sponsored by the History Department during Black History Month.

Currently, Willis is the University Professor and Chair of the Department of Digital Photography at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She is also the director of the NYU Institute for African American Affairs and the Center for Black Visual Culture. Much of Willis’ work focuses on the history of African American photography as it relates to gender, the female body, and beauty.

Willis’ most recent books, The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship and Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890’s to the Present explore the impact of African Americans during the Civil War and the essence of the African American beauty with pictures of famous public figures.

Willis is widely recognized in the photography world and has been a catalyst in changing   African American representation through imagery. She has received critical acclaim and received prestigious awards such as the 2022 Don Tyson Prize for the Advancement of American Art, the College Art Association for Writing Art History in 2021, and the Outstanding Service Award from the Royal Photogenic Society from England.

Willis is the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and the Guggenheim Fellowship and is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

This series honors the legacy of the late John Hope Franklin, a renowned historian and civil rights leader. In 1956, Franklin was appointed full professor and chair of the History Department at Brooklyn College—the first African American to be named chairman of an academic department at a municipal college. This discussion is part of President Michelle J. Anderson’s We Stand Against Hate Initiative, which features programs, lectures, workshops, and events that provide an open forum for inclusive voices and thoughts to promote diversity in the college campus community.