The Illinois State University Fall Speaker Series offers historians, authors, educators and a civil rights attorney speaking about race, gender and sexuality issues, social reform movements, health disparities by race and class, the use of technology to enhance learning, and racial justice in America.

A Conversation with Dan Savage will start the popular annual Fall Speaker Series at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14, in the Bone Student Center Braden Auditorium, with a book signing following the presentation. Savage will also conduct a Q&A session in Milner Library at 3 p.m. Originally known as a gay-sex columnist, Savage is now a household name thanks to his It Gets Better video project on YouTube. The project, which has gained immense popularity since its creation in 2010, asks people to make and upload short positive videos about their experiences with the LGBT community. Millions have viewed the videos and participated so far, including President Barack Obama. Savage, whose new book It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying and Creating a Life Worth Living was released this spring, also authors an advice column called Savage Love. His presentation is sponsored by the University Program Board, Diversity Advocacy and Milner Library.

Understanding Lincoln’s World: The Challenge of Race in 19th Century Context will be presented by Edna Greene Medford at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, in Milner Library. Medford, a professor at Howard University, specializes in 19th century African American history, teaching courses in Civil War and Reconstruction, Colonial America, the Jacksonian Era, and African American history. She was educated at Hampton Institute, the University of Illinois and the University of Maryland in College Park, where she received her Ph.D. in history. She has served as the director for the History of New York’s African Burial Ground Project since 1996, and edited the project’s history report. Medford has published more than a dozen articles and book chapters on African Americans, especially during the era of the Civil War. Her talk is sponsored by the Alice and Fannie Fell Trust and Milner Library.

Historian Elaine Tyler May will present America and the Pill: 50 Years of Controversy at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 3, in the Bone Student Center Old Main Room. May’s work centers on the intersections of gender, sexuality, domestic culture and politics. Her scholarship explores the ways in which issues normally considered part of private life, such as consumerism and leisure pursuits, reflect, express and influence American political, cultural and social values. May’s books and articles examine changing expectations for marriage in the early 20th century, family and sexuality in the Cold War era, the history of women and the history of childlessness and reproduction in America. Her presentation is sponsored by the History Department.

Illinois State English Professor Roberta Seelinger Trites will present Behind Louisa’s Mask: Discovering the Real Louisa May Alcott at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, in Milner Library. Trites teaches children’s and adolescent literature and is the author of Twain, Alcott, and the Birth of the Adolescent Reform Novel. Her research interests include Louisa May Alcott’s role in various social reform movements and her literary influence on literature for youth in the United States. Trites’ presentation is sponsored by the Friends of Milner Library.

An Evening with Dean E. Robinson will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20, in the Bone Student Center Prairie Room. Robinson is an associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He completed his Ph.D. in political science at Yale University and completed a Kellogg Scholar in Health Disparities post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University. Robinson’s current research focuses on the political and policy determinants of health disparities by race and class. One project looks at health policies and inequality in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. and how the countries enhance or diminish disparities in health outcomes. Prior to his interest in health policy, Robinson focused on black politics in the U.S., authoring Black Nationalism in American Politics and Thought. He teaches U.S. Politics and Health Inequalities, Black Politics, American Political Thought and Introduction to American Politics. Robinson’s presentation is sponsored by ABAE and the Office of the President.

LeVar Burton, actor, literacy advocate and producer/star of the long-running PBS show Reading Rainbow, will present The Power of the Written and Spoken Word: An Evening with LeVar Burton at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 14, in the Bone Student Center Braden Auditorium. He first came to prominence as an actor portraying Kunta Kinte in the award-winning television miniseries Roots, based on the novel by Alex Hailey. Burton then portrayed Geordi La Forge in the popular Star Trek: The Next Generation television show for seven years, followed by a stint as Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie Ali. Burton’s presentation is sponsored by the College of Education.

The Use of Technology to Enhance Academic Performance will be presented by Dave Edyburn at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16, in the Bone Student Center Old Main Room. Edyburn is a professor in the Department of Exceptional Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His teaching and research interests focus on the use of technology to enhance teaching, learning and performance. Edyburn is the author of What Every Teacher Should Know About Assistive Technology and the Handbook of Special Education Technology Research and Practice. He earned his master’s degree from Illinois State and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Edyburn’s presentation is sponsored by the College of Education.

Culminating the Fall Speaker Series will be acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate and legal scholar Michelle Alexander at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Dinner at 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20, in the Bone Student Center Brown Ballroom. Alexander currently holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. Prior to joining the Kirwan Institute, Alexander was an associate professor of law at Stanford Law School, where she directed the Civil Rights Clinic. In 2005, she won a Soros Justice Fellowship, which supported the writing of her first book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The book is considered one of the top African American books of 2010, winning the NAACP Image Award for “outstanding literary work of non-fiction” and featured on national radio and television media outlets. Alexander’s book challenges the civil rights community to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.