Close this Alert

Close this Alert
ShareThis Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size

Tuskegee University’s Common Reading Experience illuminates the past while confronting the present

December 21, 2020

Contact: Brittney Dabney, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Book covers: "Up from Slavery" and "Between the World and Me"

The Year-Long Common Reading Experience (YLCRE) provides a collective intellectual experience to stimulate discussion, self-reflection, critical thinking, and inspire a sense of community and diverse perspectives among students, faculty, staff and administrators. It is designed for freshmen and transfer students to be used in concert with the orientation courses and University Honors Program. The annual experience revolves around reading two books along with discussion activities with the campus community, President, staff, and students.

Tuskegee University’s 2020-21 YLCRE features notable headline books, Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery – along with Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me. The series feature literary and cultural programs to spotlight contemporary societal topics for students and the surrounding community.

Up from Slavery was selected by the president as an effort to ensure students have a clear understanding of the history of Tuskegee University,” said Dr. Sheena Harris, an associate professor of history and the Common Reading Experience’s organizer. “We have included Washington’s, Up From Slavery in the YLCRE for the past two years and hope to continue in this tradition. In like manner, the second book Between the World and Me, was selected to further engage students in the present moment.  

Between the World and Me written by Ta-Nehisi Coates is hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States” (The New York Observer). The book dives into the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.

Harris says both books will be read at the start of the spring semester and should be read in partnership with one another.

“The first book is intended to give students a sense of place and time through the lens of our founding principal. The second book is intended to provide context to our current social and political moment,” explained Harris.

In the book, Between the World and Me Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempts to answer important life questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder.

For more information about the series and updates on future presenters, visit

© 2020 Tuskegee University