Convocation 2001

First-year students inspect passing faculty.

Writer and composer James McBride opens the 147th academic year

James McBride, an award-winning composer, saxophonist and best-selling author whose writing explores the complexities of racial identity, officially opened the 147th academic year at Bates College with the convocation address “The Color of Water: A Meditation on Identity”  on Sept. 5.

Hundreds of first-year students along with other members of the Bates community gathered in front of Coram Library to hear McBride urge students to reach out to others, to use college as a time explore one’s intellectual passions, using that self-knowledge to pursue careers that they love.

McBride’s critically acclaimed book debut, “The Color of Water: “A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother” (Riverhead Books, 1997), explores his mother’s past as well as his own upbringing and heritage. Translated into more than a dozen languages, his book rested on The New York Times bestseller list for more than two years. The Times called McBride’s work “a triumph….The two stories, son’s and mother’s, beautifully juxtaposed, strike a graceful note at a time of racial polarization.” Incoming members of the Bates class of 2005 and their faculty advisers  received a copy of McBride’s book that was a centerpiece for conversation as the academic year began.

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