Few entertainers today are as accomplished or versatile as actor, director, dancer and singer Ben Vereen. His legendary performances transcend time and have been woven into the fabric of this country’s artistic legacy and continue to inspire artists of all ages.
At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18, Vereen will discuss “The Civil Rights Movement and the Making of Roots” in the University Chapel. His presentation is free and open to the public.
Roots’ “Chicken” George Moore has been one of Vereen’s most memorable roles during his 50-plus-year career — making him a household name and prompting an Emmy nomination. The eight-night television miniseries — based on Alex Haley's best-selling 1976 book Roots: The Saga of an American Family — aired on ABC in January 1977. The series, which drew an estimated 130 million viewers, called America's attention to the brutality of slavery as an institution. It also traced the effects of slavery on succeeding generations of African Americans spanning the era of the slave trade through the Reconstruction Era — and through the eyes and experiences of a single family.
Credited with appearances in 15 different Broadway productions — including his Tony Award-winning, best-actor role in the musical Pippin — Vereen is also revered for his many and memorable television and movie roles throughout his career. His most recent television credits include appearances on BET’s Tales, CBS’ Bull and Magnum, P.I., and recurring roles as Calvin on FOX’s Star and as Porter on Amazon’s hit series Sneaky Pete.
Vereen continues to tour the country with his concert act “Steppin’ Out with Ben Vereen” — selling out shows at Jazz at Lincoln Center, backed by the Julliard Jazz Ensemble, and making additional stops in Phoenix, Toronto, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis to name a few. He is also a motivational speaker, lecturer, and teaches master classes at universities throughout the country.
He is an active member of Americans for the Arts — the nation’s largest arts advocacy group of its kind. He has spoken before Congress in support of the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as at the Democratic National Convention. Vereen’s advocacy and humanitarian efforts have been recognized with Israel's Cultural and Humanitarian Award, three NAACP Image Awards, an Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award and a Victory Award. He is both a Theatre Hall of Fame and Dance Hall of Fame inductee, and the recipient of Broadwayworld.com’s Cabaret Award for Best Celebrity Male Vocalist in addition to his numerous Tony, Golden Globe and Emmy nominations and awards. This year, he will be honored with the Broadway Beacon Award.
Vereen’s program is part of the university’s annual Lyceum Series, which leverages artistic, literary and cultural programs to spotlight contemporary societal topics for students and the surrounding community. For more information about the series and updates on future presenters, visit www.tuskegee.edu/lyceumseries.
© 2020, Tuskegee University; photo credit: Isak Tiner