From the war in Syria to the Detroit Race Riots, 'History Comes Alive' at Oakland University

From the war in Syria to the Detroit Race Riots, ‘History Comes Alive’ at Oakland University
Oakland University's 'History Comes Alive' lecture series returns for its 13th season beginning on Sept. 21. The free series will feature six interesting and thought-provoking talks.

The Oakland University Department of History will offer a unique glimpse into the past during its “History Comes Alive” lecture series, which returns Sept. 21 to campus.


“It's not just a lecture, it is a participatory event – a true process of engaging the community in meaningful ways,” said Todd Estes, Ph.D, associate professor and chair of History at Oakland University. “And, from the standpoint of OU historians, it's a lot of fun to have an interested, thoughtful audience joining us once a month to talk history in a serious but also enjoyable way."


Now in its 13th year, the the annual lecture series highlights a variety of historic events – some serious, some not so serious.

“In the History Department, we think the great value of ‘History Comes Alive’ is that it gives us an opportunity to engage the public in monthly lectures on historical topics,” Estes said.


“It draws in current and former students, alumni, retired faculty, and a dedicated group of community members who love to read and talk about history and appreciate a chance to listen to a first-rate historian deliver a talk and then answer questions afterwards.”

This year’s topics will include:


 “The Origins of the War in Syria” – 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Oakland Center, Banquet Room B: Associate Professor Don Matthews will explore the historic roots of the war and its recent developments, including Russian involvement, a major refugee crisis and the emergence of ISIS.


 “Television and the Presidency: Eisenhower to Reagan” - 7 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Oakland Center, Banquet Room A: Can the presidency function effectively when organized and presented as a reality TV series? Special Lecturer Bruce Zellers will explore this question as he examines the transformation of the “bully pulpit” that is the presidency.


* “Medieval Adventurism, Crusade and the Quest for Political Power: The Case of Bohemond of Antioch” – 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Oakland Center, Gold Rooms B and C: This talk, by Associate Professor James Naus, will consider the career of Bohemond of Antioch, the son of a cattle poacher turned duke, who, in the space of a decade, rose from a landless warlord to become the prince of Antioch in 1098.


 “A Tyranny of Development: Terra Nullius and the Political Ecology of Large-Scale Land Transfers in Ethiopia” – 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Oakland Center, Gold Rooms B and C: Associate Professor Getnet Bekele will examine the intensification of the large-scale land acquisitions unleashed by the world economic downturn to underscore how a tyranny of development is emerging in Ethiopia, which has become a magnet for transnational agribusiness in search of land for food and biofuels production in the global south.


 “African Americans in Michigan: Patterns, Problems and Progress” – 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Oakland Center, Gold Rooms B and C: This lecture, by Associate Professor De Witt Dykes, provides an overview of some of the past of experiences of African Americans in Michigan, drawing on specific examples to illustrate larger patterns and trends. It also supplies the historical context for present-day challenges and opportunities.


 “The Detroit Race Riot of 1943” – 7 p.m. March 14 at the Oakland Center, Gold Rooms B and C: Associate Professor Karen Miller will explore the history of the Detroit Race Riot of 1943, which threw the city into turmoil for three days at the height of World War II. The riot threatened war production, but more importantly, it also revealed a level of racial discord that continued to plague the city for generations.


The lecture series is made possible by generous contributions from: The Knudsen Family Foundation, The Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and The Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. Special thanks to founding sponsors John and Annette Carter.


Admission to each lecture is free, but reservations are requested. To reserve a space, call (248) 370-3511 or email


For more information, visit “History Comes Alive.”