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WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Award-winning author, religion professor and well-known public intellectual Cornel West will speak at Whitman College on Thursday, Dec. 4.

West, the author of numerous ground-breaking books and articles including "Race Matters," "The African American Century," and "The Cornel West Reader," will speak at 8 p.m. in Cordiner Hall, 46 S. Park St., Whitman College campus. His lecture is sponsored by the Associated Students of Whitman College and is free.

West, who has been described as one of America's most vital and eloquent public intellectuals, was appointed Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion at Princeton University in the fall of 2002. In his writings and in his public lectures he has stated that racial division in American society fosters the poverty, paranoia, despair and distrust that undermine the nation's democratic process. His intent, he has said, is to create an ongoing dialogue between the races that will help restore hope in America.

West, who received his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University, was born in Tulsa, Okla. As a boy he was greatly impressed by the Baptist Church, where he heard stories of Blacks maintaining their faith through trying times; the Black Panthers, who taught him the value of community-based political action; and Teddy Roosevelt&#146s biography, which he read as an 8-year-old. He identified with Roosevelt who was, like West, an asthmatic, but overcame his illness, attended Harvard and became a great speaker. West graduated from Harvard in three years, then moved on to Princeton where he headed up the Department of Afro-American Studies after receiving his doctoral. Over the years he has developed a unique and forceful speaking style that is not unlike the Baptist Church's preaching style, blending drama, knowledge and inspirational thoughts.

West's publications include: "Prophesy Deliverance: An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity," "Post-Analytic Philosophy," "Prophetic Reflections" and "Prophetic Thought in Postmodern Times." His breakthrough book, "Race Matters," was published in 1993 and quickly achieved bestseller status. His book "Keep Faith" was also published in 1993. "Jews and Blacks: Let the Healing Begin," a book he co-wrote with  magazine editor Michael Lerner, was published in the spring of 1995.

In his quest to find new avenues for teaching and communicating, West has released a CD, which he made with Gospel songwriter and producer Derek Allen. West and Allen created a Black Music Retrospective album which includes narration by West and musical production by Allen. "Sketches of My Culture" is an auditory theatrical experience that pays homage to the African American experience by chronicling, celebrating and honoring the music that has sustained Black people.