Celebrating The Minority Experience: NYC Events Relating to Ethnic Groups, Immigrants and Race Relations

By Troy Segal

In honor of Martin Luther King Day—and the acclaimed new movie Selma—we present these upcoming talks, lectures and screenings that deal with minority groups and their experiences in the U.S.

The African-American Experience:


You probably read in school about the Underground Railroad. Learn about the New York City “station stop” and the brave individuals who created it, in this presentation by professors from Harvard Law School and Columbia University. New-York Historical Society, Jan. 21.

Some hard truths about U.S. race relations emerge at this screening of the documentary Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People—followed by a talkback with the director and the author of the book that inspired the film. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jan. 26

A civilized literary evening features a buffet dinner, followed by Ethiopian-American writer Dinaw Mengestu reading from his novel, All Our Names. The story of an affair between an African foreign exchange student and a Midwestern social worker, it received a rave review from The New York Times last spring. Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Jan. 27

The Jewish Experience:

behind the lens things to do nyc

Get transported back to the 1920s and ‘30s and experience the rich social and cultural life built by New York Jews Between the Wars, as—the main wave of immigration over—they began to put down roots in the New Country. The event includes a multimedia panel presentation. Museum of the City of New York, Jan. 21

Get transported even farther back, to the 1860s, and learn how American Jews felt about Abraham Lincoln (hint: they called him Rabbi Abraham) in this discussion between two history scholars. 92nd Street Y at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Feb. 1.

The Asian Experience:

Image: Karen -- Flickr

Image: Karen — Flickr

Bestselling novelist Lisa See (Shanghai Girls, China Dolls) is descended from immigrants instrumental in developing Los Angeles’ Chinatown. She discusses her family’s story—simultaneously typical and unique—in a talk that ties in to the New-York Historical Society exhibit Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion. Jan. 17

Perhaps in compensation for what they’ve had to leave behind, Chinese immigrants tend to collect an interesting variety of things as they’ve settled here, Vassar College professor and cultural writer Hua Hsu has found. In this slideshow, the critic (a self-professed pack rat) displays and analyzes the arcana of various households. Museum of Chinese in America, Feb. 5.