Dr. Neal Lester
Author and Expert in African American Literature and Pop Culture
Dr. Neal A. Lester is a Foundation Professor of English and Founding Director of Project Humanities at Arizona State University. He has been a Professor of English at Arizona State University since 1997, having taught previously at the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) and the University of Montevallo (AL). His areas of specialization are African American…
Dr. Neal A. Lester is a Foundation Professor of English and Founding Director of Project Humanities at Arizona State University. He has been a Professor of English at Arizona State University since 1997, having taught previously at the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) and the University of Montevallo (AL).
His areas of specialization are African American literature and cultural studies. Dr. Lester earned his B.A. in English and was Valedictorian at the State University of West Georgia (Carrollton). He took his M.A. and Ph.D. in English at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN) and is the first African American to receive the doctorate degree in English at Vanderbilt.
The author or co-author/ editor of seven books– among them Ntozake Shange: A Critical Study of the Plays (1995) and Understanding Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents (1999)– Dr. Lester has published, lectured, and taught extensively in the area of African American Studies.
He has published on personal ads as African American biography and autobiography; black masculinities; African American homoeroticism; neo-slave narratives; parental (il)literacy in children’s literature; the absence of the word “nigger” in contemporary African American children’s texts; African American female sexuality; interracial intimacies in American popular music; heteronormativity in children’s texts, African American womanist theory; Disney’s first African American princess in The Princess and the Frog; Disney’s Tangled feminist messages; Helen Bannerman’s Little Black Sambo as an anti-trickster; and the gender and race politics of African Americans and hair. His course, “The Nword: An Anatomy Lesson,” the only such course taught in the country, has garnered local, national, and international attention.
His third book, Once Upon a Time in a Different World: Issues and Ideas in African American Children’s Literature (2007), is a collection of Dr. Lester’s essays on children’s literature with scholars, critics, and lay persons responding each to a different essay and creating a threaded conversation about identity, gender, sexuality and race. He has also completed a co-edited collection of essays on the intersection of race, gender and sexuality in personal ads, Racialized Politics of Desire in Personal Ads (2008). His co-edited volume Sapphire’s Literary Breakthrough: Feminist Pedagogies, Erotic Literacies, Environmental Justice Perspectives (2012), is the first critical study if this important poet and author. Dr. Lester is also co-author of the exhibition catalog HairStories (2003) for the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2013, Dr. Lester served as the lead editor of the international journal of children’s literature, The Lion and The Unicorn, a special issue on children and hair.
A popular public speaker, frequent radio guest, regular op ed contributor, newspaper columnist and blogger, and discussion facilitator, Dr. Lester has an extensive record of lectures and keynote addresses, local and national media interviews, guest speaker events, scholarly consultations, conference presentations, and editorials. As well, he has received numerous teaching awards and recognitions, including Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award (1993), Distinguished Teaching Fellow Award (1996), and David Bottoms Distinguished Department Alumni Award and the College Alumni Achievement Award from The University of West Georgia.
Dr. Lester was named “Distinguished Public Scholar” by the Arizona Humanities Council in 2001 for his work both inside and outside the classroom. Dr. Lester was a recipient of the ASU “Last Lecture” Award (2002), the Arizona State University Parents Association Professor of the Year (2003), the CLAS Dean’s Distinguished Professorship (2004), and a Foundation Professorship (2007). Dr. Lester served six years on the Board of Directors for the Arizona Humanities Council–2 years as Board chair, as chair of the ASU Department of English, and as dean of Humanities in the ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
In addition to serving on editorial and advisory boards, he sits on the Executive Committee of the Association of Departments of English (ADE), an affiliate of the Modern Language Association of America. Most recently, Dr. Lester served as Associate Vice President for Humanities and Arts in the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development where his role was to promote and integrate humanities research throughout the university. He also created and has directed at Arizona State University the highly successful and award-winning university-wide Project Humanities (humanities.asu.edu) initiative since 2010, bringing scholars and communities together to “talk, listen and connect.”
In 2014, Project Humanities received the inaugural Key of Excellence Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society for successfully promoting liberal arts and sciences across communities and disciplines. Dr. Lester received the Roy Wilkins Community Service Award, the highest honor from the East Valley NAACP chapter, for his innovative Project Humanities initiative and for this community awareness campaign about the Nword.Project Humanities will receive the Juliana Yoder Friend of Humanities Award from the Arizona Humanities in November 2104 for promoting humanities efforts across the state of Arizona.
In January 2015. Dr. Lester received the Francis March Andrew Distinguished Service Award from the Modern Language Association/ Association of Departments of English for his extensive professional service to English Studies.
Ernie was perfect for our Elders Conference at Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, Michigan. We will definitely be using PDA again!
LITTLE RIVER BAND OF OTTAWA INDIANS
Our speaker was great and the crowd enjoyed her! She was very engaging. Thank you again PDA for the great list of suggestions!
Everything went great! and our speaker was wonderful! Thank you so much for all your help PDA! Looking forward to the next one.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – KANSAS CITY
I hope that this message finds you well. We had a phenomenal time with Atsuko this past Thursday. We wanted to just let you know how amazing she was. All those that were in attendance thoroughly enjoyed her and had nothing but amazing things to say about her. Thank you for working with us to make sure this happened!
BAYLOR UNIVERSITY CAMPUS
We had a fantastic day with Inge! She was very engaging with all those that attended. Her personal stories about the holocaust were very special and we were moved that she was willing to share them with everyone. Thank you again, PDA for all your hard work and dedication to make this program such a success!
SALT LAKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Dear PDA Group, Thank you so much for your hard work in scheduling our speaker! From the moment we reached out to you the first time, you worked with us on all details and logistics and kept us up-to-date on the progress. Thank you for all your hard work on making our event such a success! We couldn't have done it without you and your team!
Thank you again, Dr. Kimbrough, for a great presentation, our attendees are still talking about it!
Dr. Henry Lee's presentation was entertaining, insightful and wise. I, and everyone at Pfizer, especially appreciate the remarks you directed about following your passion and preparing yourself to excel. Thank you, everyone, at PDA for helping to make this happen!
The event was successful! I received many messages expressing how awesome, outstanding and inspiring Ms. Webb-Christburg's speech was."
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. MEMORIAL BREAKFAST, BOSTON, MLK SPEAKER
Everything went well. Atsuko was very easy to work with and the students enjoyed her performance! Thank you again for your recommendation and I hope to work with you again in the future!
CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Dr. Novello left this morning after a very successful event on our campus! Thank you PDA Group for your help from the first phone to the last you were with us every step of the way.
GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
Jordan Carlos was very very entertaining! A majority of students who answered the event survey indicated they really enjoyed Jordan and definitely will bring him back!
WESTERN CAROLINA UNIVERSITY
On behalf of myself and my organization Entertainment Unlimited the Campus Programming Board of Ferris State University, we thank you PDA and Dan for a successful event!! Dan was magnificent! Students really enjoyed the presentation. I know I did. Can't wait to bring in more programs with PDA Group.
FERRIS STATE UNIVERSITY
It was a great pleasure to work with PDA Group! The communication was always prompt, friendly and helpful. We loved the speakers and events we booked through Mr. Peter Walker (PDA Group).
WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Thank you, Peter, for all your help, you'll be happy to know that the event went incredibly well! Aneesa Ferreira was by far one of the best speakers we've ever had!
An Evening With Dr. Neal Lester
N Word and Race Relations
The Meaning of Homelessness
Dr. Neal Lester talks the N Word and race relations
1 HOUR OR LESS