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King biographer Jonathan Eig to headline Northwestern’s MLK Commemoration

Keynote events include a conversation with Eig on Jan. 16 and the Candlelight Vigil Jan. 28
jonathan eig
Jonathan Eig is the author of six books, including best selling biographies of Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali. He will be joined in conversation Jan. 16 by Medill School Dean Charles Whitaker.

New York Times bestselling author and Northwestern University alum Jonathan Eig (’86) will headline Northwestern’s 2024 MLK Commemoration with a keynote event. His latest work, “King: A Life,” earned him 2023 Chicagoan of the Year honors from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Magazine.

Eig will be joined in conversation by Medill School Dean Charles Whitaker. The keynote conversation will take place Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 5 p.m. at Galvin Hall, 70 Arts Circle Drive. In-person seating is first come first served. The event also will be available by livestream.

Other Northwestern MLK Commemoration programs on the Evanston campus include Eva Jefferson Day and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Candlelight Vigil, originally scheduled for Jan. 15, has been rescheduled to Sunday, Jan. 28 at 5 p.m. at Alice Millar Chapel.

Chicago campus events include a moderated panel discussion on racial health disparities on Wednesday, Jan. 17 at Feinberg School of Medicine; a screening of “The March: The Story of the Greatest March in American History” at Pritzker Law School; and a virtual oratorical competition on Friday, Jan. 19.

Most events are open to the public. For program details, including the livestream link to the keynote conversation with Eig, visit Northwestern’s MLK website.

Widely heralded as the new “definitive” biography of Martin Luther King Jr., Eig drew upon newly declassified FBI papers, unpublished archive materials and more than 200 interviews, to present the sympathetic and complex portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. in “King: A Life” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023).

Shortly after publication, “King: A Life” became a New York Times bestseller, an Obama Summer Reading List Pick, one of Publisher Weekly’s best nonfiction books of 2023, and was longlisted for the National Book Award.

The Washington Post, TIME Magazine, the Chicago Tribune and Smithsonian Magazine included “King: A Life” in their lists of the 10 Best Books of 2023, and it was named an essential read by The New Yorker and a notable book of 2023 by The New York Times. It is in its ninth printing with 60,000 copies sold.

Eig is the author of six books, including the New York Times best sellers, “Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig”; “Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season”; and “Ali: A Life,” which was the source of a PBS documentary directed by Ken Burns. His book “The Birth of the Pill” will be staged soon as a play for TimeLine Theatre in Chicago.

A reporter from the age of 16 at his hometown newspaper in New York, The Rockland County Journal News, Eig attended Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communication, earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1986. After graduating, he worked as a reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Dallas Morning News, Chicago Magazine and the Wall Street Journal.

His works have been translated into more than a dozen languages. His honors include a 2018 PEN America Literary Award, and he was a finalist for the Mark Lynton History Prize for “Ali: A Life.”

Candlelight Vigil rescheduled to Jan. 28

Held annually since 1980 — before the national holiday was enacted and the MLK memorial in Washington, D.C., was conceived — Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Alpha Mu chapter at Northwestern initiated the Candlelight Vigil commemoration for the fallen civil rights leader and their fraternity brothers.

This year’s vigil will take place Sunday, Jan. 28 at 5 p.m. at Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road on the Evanston campus.

The featured speaker is Rev. Reginald W. Williams Jr., a pastor, public interest lawyer and activist.

Williams is the pastor of First Baptist Church of University Park, Illinois, and serves as an adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary and Chicago Theological Seminary in the areas of social justice ministry in the local church and prophetic preaching. 

His honors include the Wisconsin State Bar’s Public Interest Law Student of the Year; membership in “Who’s Who in Black Chicago” in 2008; the 2011 Martin Luther King, Jr. Image Award by the South Suburban Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee; the 2018 Spiritual Leader of the year by Chamber 57; and the 2019 IDEAL Education Foundation Award for Community Leadership.

Williams is a graduate of Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Florida A&M University, the University of Wisconsin Law School and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University where he earned his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry. His first call as an ordained minister came from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago where he served as associate pastor for justice ministries under Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.

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