Human Nature–Human Rights: A Civic Dialogue on Unfinished Revolutions

March 20, 2000 (Monday) / 6:00 pmMarch 25, 2000 (Saturday) / 11:00 pm

Human Nature–Human Rights: A Civic Dialogue on Unfinished Revolutions

Monday, 3/20     U.S. Civil Rights


The Penn Humanities Forum opens this week-long investigation of human nature and human rights with the U.S. civil rights movement. Denied human status under slavery and refused equality even after Abolition, African Americans launched a painful battle for civil liberties in the late 1950s and the 1960s, which still goes on in our day. Like any case for human protections and privileges, its premise is the equal status of the claimants. Thus, the civil rights movement provoked a full-scale exploration of black history and culture to establish the human worth, dignity, and pride of African Americans.

In this movement, the arts played a crucial role. It is impossible to decide which was more decisive to the success of the rights struggle: the marches and sit-ins and trials that forced concessions from the courts, or the fellow-feeling aroused in Americans by the pathos of Alex Haley's Roots, by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s glorious rhetoric, and by imaginative triumphs such as Toni Morrison's Beloved. We open our film festival with the celebrated writer and filmmaker Juan Williams and the distinguished historian Thomas J. Sugrue discussing race and rights in the U. S. and showing the prize-winning documentary, Eyes on the Prize, for which Juan Williams wrote the companion guide, Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954—1965.


6:00 p.m. Logan Hall, Room 17 36th Street between Locust Walk and Spruce Street

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Peter Conn, Deputy Provost, University of Pennsylvania 

Samuel Preston, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences 

Wendy Steiner, Director, Penn Humanities Forum


6:15 - 10:00 p.m. Logan Hall, Room 17

Penn Humanities Forum Film Festival and Commentary


Thomas J. Sugrue, Bicentennial Class of 1940 Professor of History and Sociology at Penn, noted authority on civil rights politics and race, and author of the award-winning book The Origins of the Urban Crisis, a study of race and inequality in postwar Detroit.

Juan Williams, host of NPR's Talk of the Nation and regular panelist on Fox News Sunday.


Eyes on the Prize 

Blackside, Inc., Henry Hampton, Exec. Producer; Judith Vecchione, Series Editor 

Through contemporary interviews and historical footage, much of it never before broadcast, Eyes on the Prize traces the civil rights movement from early acts of individual courage through the flowering of a mass movement and its eventual split into factions. Presented here are three one-hour films from this acclaimed documentary.

Ain't Scared of Your Jails 1960-1961, Series I:3 

College students began to take an important role in the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. Lunch counter sit-ins spread from Nashville, Tennessee, throughout the South, giving life to a new force within the movement: the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In what became known as the Freedom Rides, many students found themselves facing death to break down segregation in interstate bus travel below the Mason-Dixon line.

Bridge to Freedom, Series I:6 

Ten years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus, and nearly eleven years after the decree that "separate but equal" was unconstitutional, black Americans were still fighting for equality. In "Bridge to Freedom," the lessons of that decade are brought to bear in the climactic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

Back to the Movement, Series II:8 

Two cities, Miami and Chicago, were the scene of riots and destruction. Pummeled by the devastation of their neighborhood brought on by urban renewal, lack of jobs, and police harassment, Overtown, Miami's once- thriving black community, exploded in rioting. In Chicago, frustrated by decades of unfulfilled promises made by the city's Democratic political machine, reformers installed Harold Washington as Chicago's first black mayor. This final film in the PBS series ends with a look back at the people who made the Civil Rights Movement a force for change in America.

WHYY Film Series

11:00 p.m. WHYY TV, Channel 12

People's Century #120 "Skin Deep" 

WHYY TV begins its week-long film series on Human Rights, developed in association with the Penn Humanities Forum, with Skin Deep, a profile of efforts to end segregation in the U.S. and apartheid in South Africa. In the U.S., nonviolent protests and political actions such as the Montgomery bus boycott, lunch-counter sit-ins and the Freedom Riders, eventually brought about an end to segregation in public places and education and enforced the right of blacks to vote. When peaceable protests failed in South Africa, where apartheid was the law, some turned to guerilla fighting. The black majority eventually won their freedom and the right to vote, holding first free democratic election in the late 1980s.   


Tuesday, 3/21    Women's Rights

The struggle for women's rights has its roots in antiquity and its branches across the world. Yet despite the breadth of this concern, full citizenship for women is only decades old in the most enlightened countries, and these are by no means the norm. Even in the most liberal settings, women's equality is still a disputed and confusing matter.

Like all rights struggles, this one reveals clearly the connection between human nature and human rights. Throughout history, the argument against equality for women has been based on their alleged inferiority to men, whether on religious, biological, or simply pragmatic grounds. Defined as a helpmete, childbearer, or child-rearer, women were treated as intrinsically different from men and unable or unavailable to perform at the same level of excellence. So pervasive have such arguments been that many feminists object to any characterization of "woman's nature," convinced that there is no such common essence but merely essentialist fictions created to keep women from living fully and freely.

In our day, evolutionary psychologists have provided the latest vision of women's nature as one programmed for a monogamous relationship with a powerful, wealthy man. Natalie Angier, noted author and journalist, takes the "evopsychos" to task for their claims in her public lecture, "Woman—An Intimate Geography." Afterward, the Forum invites you to a Philadelphia site resonant for the women's rights advocates, the Friends Center and Meetinghouse, for a discussion between Ms. Angier and the experts in psychology and biology: Jeanne Marecek of Swarthmore College and Ingrid Waldron of Penn, followed by a reception and book-signing. Back on the Penn campus Professor Vicki Mahaffey of the English Department will then introduce films about one of the world's great female authors, Virginia Woolf, and the current status of women's rights across the world.


3:00 - 4:30 p.m.  Dunlop Auditorium, 3450 Hamilton Walk (off 36th Street, 1/2 block south of Spruce)

Lief Lecture: Natalie Angier

Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer for the New York Times and author of Woman—An Intimate Geography

Biologically, proclaims Natalie Angier in her new book, "women are not the runners-up; women are the original article!" In her view, it is time to lift the veil of secrecy from that most enigmatic of evolutionary masterpieces, the female body. Ms. Angier examines what it means to be a woman, exploring the biology of being female both to celebrate what is right about the female body and to challenge popular theories about the innate differences between men and women.


5:30 - 7:00 p.m. Friends Center and Meetinghouse, 1515 Cherry Street

Registration required by Friday, 3/17; register online

Public Discussion, Reception and Book-Signing

Natalie Angier in conversation with:

Jeanne Marecek, Professor of Psychology, Swarthmore College and author of Making a Difference: Psychology and the Construction of Gender.

Wendy Steiner, Richard L. Fisher Professor of English and Director, Penn Humanities Forum, and author of the forthcoming book, The Trouble with Beauty. 

Ingrid Waldron, Professor and Donna and Larry Shelley Term Chair in Women's Studies at Penn, and author of Environment and Population: Problems and Solutions.


Film Festival and Commentary

7:30 p.m. Meyerson Hall, B-1 210 S. 34th Street


Vicki Mahaffey, Professor of English, author of States of Desire: Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, and the Irish Experiment, and authority on Virginia Woolf.


7:30 p.m. Meyerson Hall, B-1, 210 S. 34th Street


10:00 p.m. WHYY TV, Channel 12


A Woman's Place 

Produced by Maryland Public Television 

This one-hour documentary tells the intimate stories of women from three countries who are fighting to balance the scales of power so that "a man's world" is also a woman's place. A woman's place historically has been prescribed by culture and custom, but recent laws are beginning to challenge old belief systems. Can new laws change old ways? This central question is explored in travels to rural South Africa, middle America, and Bombay, India, to meet women who put a face on the conflict between tradition and change.


8:30 p.m. Meyerson Hall, B-1, 210 S. 34th Street


11:00 p.m. WHYY TV, Channel 12

The War Within: A Portrait of Virginia Woolf 

Arthur Cantor Films 

Called "an extraordinarily moving portrait of one of the giants of twentieth century literature" by the American Film Institute, this definitive one-hour documentary includes archival footage, paintings of the period, and haunting family photos of a Victorian childhood of both beauty and abuse. The film interweaves the personal story of Virginia Woolf's life and loves with the turbulent times she lived in. Rare documents, never before filmed, include the document in her handwriting used to establish the League of Nations, newly discovered letters to her beloved Vita Sackville-West, and the Gestapo list where she and her husband, Leonard, were marked for arrest.


Wednesday, 3/21   The Holocaust and Human Rights

The Holocaust is among the most systematic and blatant violations of human rights in recorded history. It was rationalized by an elaborate Nazi doctrine which denied the humanity of its victims: Jews, homosexuals, communists, Slavs. The shock provoked by the cruelty of this unashamed dehumanization accelerated international human rights legislation as no previous events had ever done. One immediate result was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations in 1948, in which the connection between being human and having rights was drawn for everyone. In the decades that followed, other charters expanded these rights and the mechanisms for their enforcement.

The horror of the Holocaust and the profundity of its crimes against humanity have been kept alive in film and literature and through the new archival resource of videotaped testimony. Wednesday's program begins in the afternoon with Professor Alan Filreis, an expert on the Holocaust in literature, presenting taped statements of Holocaust survivors at Kelly Writers House. In the evening's film series, Harry Reicher of Penn's Law School will discuss the rise of human rights legislation following the Third Reich, and three Penn experts—Professors Millicent Marcus, Barbie Zelizer, and Al Filreis—will consider how the Holocaust has been portrayed in cinema and literature, introducing two film classics: Alain Resnais's Night and Fog, and Vittorio De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.


4:30 - 5:30 p.m. Kelly Writers House, 3805 Locust Walk,

Spaces limited–RSVP by email or call 215-573-WRIT

Holocaust Video Testimony

Professor Al Filreis leads a discussion on video testimony by Holocaust survivors, illustrated with excerpts from archival tapes.


6:30 - 11:00 p.m. Meyerson Hall, Room B-1, 210 S. 34th Street

Film Festival and Commentary


Al Filreis, Professor of English, Director, Kelly Writers House, expert on the literature of the Holocaust, and author of Modernism from Right to Left: Wallace Stevens, the Thirties, & Literary Radicalism

Millicent Marcus, Mariano DiVito Professor of Italian Studies, Director, Film Studies Program, authority on the Holocaust in Italian literature and film, and author of Filmmaking by the Book: Italian Cinema and Literary Adaptation

Harry Reicher, Visiting Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School. His course, "Law and the Holocaust," is the first of its kind to be offered at any law school. 

Barbie Zelizer, Raymond Williams Term Chair and Associate Professor of Communication, expert on collective memory and visual representation, and author of the award-winning book, Remembering to Forget: Holocaust Memory Through the Camera's Eye.



Night and Fog (Nuit et Brouillard) 

Janus Films, Directed by Alain Resnais, Written by Jean Cayrol

Hailed as one of the most vivid depictions of the horrors of Nazi concentration camps and one of the world's greatest documentaries, Night and Fog, filmed in 1955 at the postwar site of Auschwitz, combines color footage with black and white newsreels and stills to tell the story of the Holocaust and horror of man's brutal inhumanity.

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Il Giardino Dei Finzi-Contini)

Italian with English subtitles, Directed by Vittorio De Sica 

The acclaimed The Garden of the Finzi-Continis won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1971, was nominated for Best Screenplay, and received 26 international awards. Beautifully photographed in dream-like pastels, the film tells the story of a rich, aristocratic family of Italian Jews who cloistered themselves on their large estate, ignoring the growing peril of Fascist anti-semitism.


11:30 p.m. (also 3:00 p.m., 3/26), WHYY TV, Channel 12,

WHYY Film Series

Burning Questions

Three million Catholic Poles perished in WWII alongside three million Jewish Poles. The story of Polish Catholic suffering during the Holocaust has been largely overlooked in the United States. With the recent 60th anniversary of the beginning of WWII, Burning Questions is a relevant new addition to our Holocaust awareness. While never diminishing the Jewish experience, Burning Questions includes the often forgotten three million "others".


Thursday, 3/21   Human Rights in the Balkans and Islam

This program examines notions of human nature and rights in the Balkans and Islam, beginning with an afternoon lecture by Professor Sayed Nomanul-Haq who teaches religion at Rutgers University. In the evening, Robert Vitalis, a professor of Political Science at Penn, will describe the situation of human rights in Greece and the Arabic world where the two movies of this program are set, and Millicent Marcus, professor of Film and Romance Languages, will explore the history of the human rights genre in cinema.

It is not surprising that the 1960s, a decade rocked by violent liberationist struggles, should have created the modern human rights film genre. We show two of the works that launched the genre, Costa-Gavras's Z and Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers. Set in the Balkans and the Islamic world, they prophesied the trouble-spots of our day.


4:30 - 5:30 p.m. Annenberg School, Rm 111, 3620 Walnut Street

Political Science Lecture: S. Nomanul Haq

Making a Pact with God: The Islamic Doctrine of the Formation of Human Nature and Its Burdens

S. Nomanul Haq is professor of religion, Rutgers University, and visiting scholar in political science, University of Pennsylvania, and authority on theology, philosophy, and science in Islamic intellectual history.

Cosponsored with the Department of Political Science.


6:30 - 10:30 p.m. Logan Hall, Room 17, 249 S. 36th Street

Film Festival and Commentary


Robert Vitalis, Professor of Political Science and Director of Penn's Middle East Center, and author of When Capitalists Collide: Business Conflict and the End of Empire in Egypt

Millicent Marcus, Mariano DiVito Professor of Italian Studies, Director, Film Studies Program, and author of Filmmaking by the Book: Italian Cinema and Literary Adaptation.




Directed by Costa-Gavras, written by Vassilis Vassilikos and Jorge Semprun 

In this gripping two-hour thriller that won an Oscar for best foreign language film in 1969 and launched the human rights film genre, Costa-Gravas chronicles the overthrow of the democratic government in Greece. When a liberal politician and leader of the opposition party is assassinated in an attack during a peace demonstration, the corrupt military and police try to cover up the murder—and their parts in it.


Battle of Algiers 

Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo 

B&W, in Arabic/French, subtitled in English 

Academy Award nominee for best foreign film in 1966, Battle of Algiers was initially banned by the French government. It is a landmark of film history as the first film to depict Algeria's revolt against French Colonialism in their struggle to gain independence. In the staged street riots, we follow Ali La Pointe and his supporters through the streets of Algiers as they struggle for the return of their country.


WHYY Film Series

10:30 p.m. WHYY TV, Channel 12

Srebrenica: A Cry from the Grave 

Events surrounding Europe's most horrifying war crimes since World War II are brought to light in this gripping documentary. Narrated by Bill Moyers, the program includes previously unreleased footage and first-person accounts of the 1995 massacre in Bosnia. Interviews with both witnesses and officials create a detailed chronicle of the events surrounding the nightmare that engulfed Srebrenica.


Friday, 3/24   Human Rights in Africa

The defeat of apartheid in South Africa will go down as one of the great victories in the struggle for human rights, an achievement that bound people and governments throughout the world in common cause to overcome oppression. This triumph stands as an example today for other African nations in which rights violations go on amid poverty, war, and disease.

The African Studies Center of the University of Pennsylvania examines human rights in Africa in a day-long interdisciplinary conference, followed by the Forum's evening program of discussion and documentary film. Ngugi wa Thiong'o, one of Africa's foremost authors, will appear in conversation with Professor Farah Griffin, an expert on African-American literature, and Professor Tukufu Zuberi, a specialist in race and demographics and Director of African Studies at Penn. These scholars will introduce Bill Moyers's extraordinary documentary on the aftermath of apartheid, Facing the Truth.


9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. Logan Hall, Terrace Room, 249 S. 36th Street

Human Rights Conference

African Studies Center

The African Studies Center of the University of Pennsylvania examines human rights in Africa in a day-long interdisciplinary conference. For conference information, please consult the African Studies Center's website or call 215-898-6971. 

Cosponsored by the Penn Humanities Forum


6:30 - 9:00 p.m. Meyerson Hall, B-1, 210 S. 34th Street

Film Festival and Commentary


Ngugi wa Thiong'o, acclaimed African writer and Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience (Kenya 1977), and author of several books, including Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedom and Writers in Politics. His award-winning works promoting the role of indigenous languages in decolonization have been translated into more than 30 languages 

Farah Griffin, Associate Professor of English, and author of Who Set You Flowin'?: The African-American Migration Narrative

Tukufu Zuberi, Associate Professor of Sociology, Director, African Studies Center, and authority on race and demographics in Africa.



Facing the Truth with Bill Moyers 

Bill Moyers travels deep into the heart of South Africa, a land seeking to heal the wounds left by an amoral system of apartheid, and meets with the faces it has left behind. The program covers the amnesty and the Truth and Reconciliation hearings where victims at last confront their torturers, their rapists, and the murderers of their loved ones. Speaking with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African president F.W. De Clerk, Moyers seeks to give viewers an understanding of the steps both black and white South Africans are taking to reconcile their differences, forgive past wrongdoings, and move their nation into a new and brighter age.


WHYY Film Series

10:00 p.m. WHYY TV, Channel 12

Facing the Truth with Bill Moyers

(see Penn Humanities Forum Film Series for description)



Saturday, 3/25   Human Rights in Philadelphia

On Saturday, the Penn Humanities Forum moves into the streets of Philadelphia to continue its inquiry into human nature and human rights. From the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution to the Quakers' championing of women's rights and the abolition of slavery, Philadelphia is a rich repository of the human rights history of the New World.

We begin with breakfast in the White Dog Cafe, a restaurant famous not only for the excellence of its cuisine but for the social engagement of its educational and cultural programs under the leadership of Judy Wicks. Paul Hendrickson, a prize-winning author and member of Penn's English Department, will address the breakfast gathering about incidents in the Civil Rights Movement that form the subject for his next book.

After breakfast, Poor Richard's Walking Tours will take groups on an extensive tour through Philadelphia of human rights landmarks, researched and conducted by young Penn historians who are experts on the city's rich heritage. From there we take our places in the studios of WHYY, kind sponsors of the late-night series of human rights films running throughout the week. In WHYY's headquarters overlooking Independence Mall, West Philadelphia residents, Penn faculty, and public high school students will present a program on the Black Bottom, a neighborhood unceremoniously eliminated in the name of urban progress, its population uprooted and exiled. Through performance, reminiscence, and discussion, these collaborators attempt to reinstate the community previously dispossessed.

Finally, the Penn Humanities Forum assembles the directors of the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, and the National Labor Committee to describe the rights violations still rampant in our day. These leaders in the extention of social justice to all people will be introduced by Professor Samuel Freeman, an expert on the philosophy of law who will return us to the week's central topic: the interdependent notions of human nature and human rights.


9:30 - 11:00 a.m. White Dog Café, 3440 Sansom Street

Register and reserve tickets online

Breakfast & Talk: "Mississippi Murder: A Fifty Year Haunting"

Paul Hendrickson, award-winning feature writer for the Washington Post who also teaches in Penn's English Department, will discuss the legend of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who was visiting country relatives in Mississippi when he was murdered in 1955. His murder helped ignite what would soon, in the next decade, be called The Civil Rights Movement. 

$15 per person. Reservations and prepayment required. Seating limited.


Tour times:

9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. , 12:00 - 2:30 p.m.

Preview the tour

Register and reserve tickets online

Poor Richard's Walking Tours

Life & Liberty: Struggles for Human Rights in Philadelphia

The streets of Philadelphia are filled with the remnants and ghosts of historic struggles for human rights. Come explore the storied streets of our city as we discuss these remarkable legends and achievements in a walk written and produced by the Penn historians of Poor Richard's Walking Tours.

$10 per person/$5 students. Space limited.


Performance: 12:00 - 2:00 p.m. WHYY Studios, Independence Mall at 6th and Race Streets

Reception: 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. WHYY Studios, Independence Mall at 6th and Race Streets


Black Bottom Performance Project

"Eminent Domain"—Narratives of Dispossession, Exile, and Return

Black Bottom was a vital African-American neighborhood that existed adjacent to the University of Pennsylvania until it was destroyed in the 1950s and early 1960s by the so-called Urban Renewal programs of that era. Through stories, monologues, music, poetry, and academic presentations, a panel of Philadelphia artists, Penn faculty, and former residents of Black Bottom will examine historical, folkloric, mythological, and sociological stories of dispossession, exile, and return.

The stories and images that emerge will be used to develop a full-length dramatic work about the Black Bottom, being written by the award-winning Philadelphia playwright Ed Shockley. Today's forum is part of the process of developing the play through public discourse, engaging Penn faculty and students with West Philadelphia high school students and community residents. 

Sponsored by the Penn Humanities Forum, the Center for Community Partnerships, the Community Arts Partnership, and the Black Bottom Performance Project. Curated by Dr. William Yalowitz.


3:00 - 5:00 p.m. WHYY Studios, Independence Mall at 6th and Race Streets

Register online

Civic Forum: Human Nature and Human Rights


Wendy Steiner, Director, Penn Humanities Forum

Samuel Freeman, Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania



Nadine Strossen, President, American Civil Liberties Union 

Current Challenges to Civil Liberties 

Charles Kernaghan, Executive Director, National Labor Committee 

The Fight to End Child Labor and Sweatshops 

William Schulz, Executive Director, Amnesty International—USA 

Torture, Torment, and Tyranny: The Status of Human Rights Today