Flawed Hero: Annual Civil Rights Lecture at Pacific Union College

By Becky St. Clair on February 25, 2019

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Pacific Union College announces Dr. Ron Graybill as the speaker for the 2019 lecture of the Percy and John Christian Civil Rights Conference Center. Graybill has served his communities in a variety of ways over the years—professor, journalist, communications specialist, historian, editor, and pastor—and will draw from these varied experiences as he presents on his topic, “James Edson White: Flawed Hero.” The lecture will take place on Saturday, March 9, at 4 p.m. in PUC’s Paulin Hall. This event is free and open to the public.

“I’ll be presenting on the paternalistic racism which characterized most social action by whites during the late 19th century,” Graybill explains. “To do this I will be examining closely the story of the life of James Edson White, with emphasis on his pioneer evangelistic, educational, and humanitarian work among Mississippi Blacks during this era.”

Much of his lecture will be an elaboration of the premise of his book, Mission to Black America, originally published in 1971 with a second, updated edition released in February 2019. 

“James Edson White’s evangelism story has significant application to current issues,” Graybill says. “We are in an era when the long-standing racism of much of American society has come more obviously into view, and understanding how even the most progressive individuals in the past still had racial flaws helps us become more aware of our own unconscious assumptions and feelings about race, and thus better able to admit and overcome them.”

James Edson White is the son of Ellen G. White, co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Ellen lived for many years at Elmshaven in the hills above St. Helena, a house which is now a historic museum.

A native of Northern California, Graybill spent third grade at Pacific Union College Elementary School while his mother trained at PUC to be a teacher. He now has an M.Div. degree from Andrews University, and a Ph.D. in American religious history from Johns Hopkins University. 

Graybill also spent 13 years as an associate secretary at the Ellen G. White Estate at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Maryland, where he assisted Arthur White in writing the six-volume biography of White’s grandmother, Ellen G.White. Graybill’s many articles on Adventist history made him one of the most frequently cited sources in the new Ellen G. White Encyclopedia

For a campus map of PUC, visit puc.edu/map. For information about this and other upcoming events on the campus, email pr@puc.eduor call (800) 862-7080.