Civil rights icon the Rev. Al Sharpton joins Tennessee State University as Distinguished Guest Lecturer, brings wealth of knowledge to political science

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the nation’s most renowned civil rights leaders and activists, will join Tennessee State University as a Distinguished Guest Lecturer for the 2021 spring semester starting in January. 

Sharpton will be a featured lecturer in the area of political science grounded in social justice during the academic term. 

TSU President Glenda Glover and the Rev. Al Sharpton at the 2019 Graduate Commencement ceremony. (TSU Media Relations)

“We are excited to have the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights icon, serve as a distinguished guest lecturer at our university,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “His presence means our students will be able to engage with a piece of history at a time when his insight is more relevant than ever before.” 

Sharpton said his invitation to lecture at TSU is timely.

“It’s my honor to be a distinguished guest lecturer at Tennessee State University in the Spring of 2021 during such a historic time in American history,” said Sharpton. “The course I will teach will examine political science and social justice from the lens of recent cases—many of which I have directly worked on as a civil rights leader and it will look at shifting politics in the new administration relating to issues directly impacting Black communities. As a young teenage civil rights activist, I dreamt that I’d someday attend a HBCU, and as fate would have it, I am doing so as a distinguished lecturer.”

Sharpton, a community leader, politician, and minister, serves as the host of PoliticsNation on MSNBC. With more than 40 years of experience as an advocate, he has held such notable positions as the youth director of New York’s Operation Breadbasket, director of ministers for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and founder of his own broad-based progressive civil rights organization, the National Action Network. 

President Glover added, “Not only does Rev. Sharpton know American history and the role African Americans have played to shape that history, he has been an intricate piece of it as well. This will be an amazing opportunity for our students to learn from an individual who comes from the pages of the history books they are reading, and to gain knowledge directly from the source.” 

TSU sophomore Alexus Dockery, a political science major from Memphis, Tennessee, said she’s looking forward to hearing Sharpton. 

“Tennessee State University and its students have taken action to fight against social injustice,” said Dockery. “TSU students embody the meaning of call to action, which is demonstrated through our motto, “Think. Work. Serve. Rev. Sharpton understands the importance of this, and the importance of HBCUs contributing to society for the advancement of Black people.” 

Sharpton is no stranger to TSU. He gave the keynote address last year at the university’s spring graduate commencement ceremony, where he was bestowed an honorary degree in recognition of his body of work and societal impact. 

“It is an honor to welcome Rev. Al Sharpton to Tennessee State University,” said Dr. Michael Harris, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at TSU. “His lifetime commitment to public service and social justice will provide our students an exceptional opportunity to learn from a national leader. This once again demonstrates that our university is on the forefront of innovative educational excellence.” 

Dr. Kimberly Triplett, TSU’s Faculty Senate Chair, said Sharpton’s presence “will also assist in our recruitment efforts.”

“Part of our mission here at TSU is to promote academic excellence through scholarly inquiry, teaching, research, lifelong learning, and public service,” said Triplett. “Dr. Sharpton’s life work is the epitome of TSU’s commitment to its mission.” 

In 2014, he came to the university to take up the cause to have TSU’s 1957- 1959 Men’s Championship Basketball Team, the first-ever to win three national titles back-to back, inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. 

He joined university officials and staff, including President Glover, state officials, community leaders and stakeholders, as he presented his cause during a ceremony at TSU. 

Sharpton’s efforts, along with many others, contributed to the TSU men’s basketball championship teams of 1957-59 being inducted into the prestigious basketball hall of fame in 2019.

To view the full bio of the Rev. Al Sharpton, visit

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Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at