UMass Amherst
Judaic and Near Eastern Studies


Julius Lester, professor emeritus

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     Julius Lester came to the University of Massachusetts in 1971 as a Professor of Afro-American Studies. Since 1988 he has been a Professor of Judaic Studies with adjunct appointments in the English and History departments. He taught Afro-American History at the New School for Social Research in New York from 1968-1970. He holds a B.A. in English from Fisk University, 1960. 

     Since 1968 Professor Lester has published 34 books - 7 nonfiction, 24 children's books, 1 book of poetry and 2 novels. Among the awards these books have received are the Newbery Honor Medal, the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, National Book Award Finalist, American Library Association Notable Book, National Jewish Book Award Finalist, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Honor Book and New York Times Outstanding Book. His books have been translated into eight languages.  

     Professor Lester has published more than two hundred essays and reviews in such publications as New York Times Book Review, New York Times Op-Ed Page, Boston Globe, Village Voice, The New Republic, Moment, Forward, and Dissent.  

     Professor Lester has recorded two albums of original songs (Vanguard Records), hosted and produced a radio show on WBAI-FM in New York City for eight years, and hosted a live television show on WNET in New York for two years. A veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, his photographs of that movement were included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution and are part of the permanent photographic collection at Howard University. He also served as lay religious leader of Beth El Synagogue in St. Johnsbury, Vermont for nine years.

     Professor Lester is the only faculty member to have been awarded all three of the university's most prestigious faculty awards: The Distinguished Teacher's Award, the Faculty Fellowship Award for Distinguished Research and Scholarship, and the Chancellor's Medal, the University's highest honor. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education selected him as the Massachusetts State Professor of the Year in 1988.

     Professor Lester's biography has appeared in Who's Who in America since 1970. He has given lectures and papers at more than 100 colleges and universities. 

     In 2004 he published The Autobiography of God, his first adult novel in ten years, and Writing for Children and Other People, a literary memoir. In 2005 three books will be published: Let's Talk About Race, a picture book, The Old African, with illustrations by Jerry Pinkney, and Day of Tears, a young adult novel.

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