Caleb Williamson '17 and Todd Franklin, the Sidney Wertimer Professor of Philosophy.

In his second semester at Hamilton, Caleb Williamson ’17 took a course with Philosophy Professor Todd Franklin called “The Black Self” and discovered thinkers and writers he’d never studied in high school: Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver and Angela Davis, to name a few.

On breaks, he started to pick up books about black literature and culture his parents had at home. Williams read some good stuff, jotted down the titles and brought them to his professor to ask if the work was still applicable in the 21st century. That’s a great question, Franklin responded.

“And then he said, ‘Well, good thing you’re here in philosophy because you can try to find the answer to that question,’” says Williamson, who intends to major in philosophy. The upshot: Williamson sought and won a College grant to do summer research that included visits to the Library of Congress and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.

Williamson’s work focused on shifts in black identity from 1894 to the present and the importance of education for black identity. He expects the research to become the basis of his senior thesis and, someday, a book. Williamson is considering going to a law school where he can pursue both a law degree and philosophy doctorate.

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