The Kaplan Memorial Lecture was established by the English Department to present major figures in the field of American Studies and sponsor talks on the kind of intellectual topics Kaplan pursued—boundary-crossing enterprises like Jewish, multi-ethnic, feminist, and African American studies. Kaplan’s legacy extends especially to Black studies and Black history as well as studies of the relatedness in American culture of Black and white.

2021: Fred Moten, "Notes () Predimensionality"

2019: Imani Perry, “Black Letters and the Law: Jurisprudence in the African American Literary Imagination”

2018: Farah Jasmine Griffin, “In Pursuit of Justice and Grace: Reflections on the African-American Literary Tradition”

2016: Phillip Brian Harper, “Challenges of Literary Contemporariness: The Case of Rankine’s Citizen”

2015: Robin Bernstein, “Black Childhood on Trial: The Tragedy of William Freeman”

2014: Jacqueline Goldsby, "A Salon for the Masses: Black Reading Circles during the Chicago Renaissance”

2013: Robert Reid-Pharr, “Federico Garcia Lorca in Black and White”

2012: Daphne Brooksm, “'One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing’: The Secret Black Feminist History of Porgy and Bess”

2011: José Muñoz, “The Sense of Brown: Wise Latinas”

2010: Eric Lott, “Back Door Man: Howlin’ Wolf and the Sound of Jim Crow”

2009: Brent Hayes Edwards, “The Alchemy of Tin: The Cultures of Jazz in Downtown New York in the 1970s”

2008: Mary Helen Washington, “Alice Childress and the African American Literary Left of the 1950s"

2007: Susan Gillman, “Adaptation and Americas Studies: Martí’s Ramona and Fernández Retamar’s ‘Caliban’”

2006: David Roediger, “The Cultural Front and Antiracism: Looking at Frank Sinatra’s ‘The House I Live In’”

2005: Trudier Harris, “Why Are Black Male Writers Afraid Of the South?”

2004: Dwight McBride, "When All the Blacks Are Straight”

2003: Matthew Frye Jacobson, “Hyphen Nation: The Politics of Diversity in a ‘Nation of Immigrants’”

2002: A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff

2001: Hazel Carby, "African American Studies: Promoting Blackness in the Marketplace of Black Celebrity”

2000: William Julius Wilson, "The Bridge Over the Racial Divide”

1999: Frances Smith Foster, "When the Lions Write History: Slavery and the African-American Literary Imagination"

1997: Werner Sollers, "Was Roxy Black?: Race as Stereotype in Mark Twain, Edward Winsor Kemble, and Paul Laurence Dunbar"

1997: Jean Fagan Yellin, "Writing Harriet Jacobs”

1995: Arnold Rampersad, "The Ethics of Autobiography: Arthur Ashe's Days of Grace"