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  • The Claremont Independent

Pomona Announces Historian, Human Rights Lawyer as Commencement Speakers

Today on Feb. 27, Pomona College announced Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Pomona alumna and human rights lawyer Martina Vandenberg as its commencement speakers for the Class of 2020’s commencement on May 17.

Gates is known for his plethora of books and documentary films about African and African-American history, along with his PBS television series Finding Your Roots, which showcases genealogical and DNA research to help guests discover their heritages. Gates is also one of the first recipients of the MacArthur “genius grant.” Gates is one of the foremost scholars on African-American history and literature, earning his BA from Yale University and his M.A and Ph.D. from Clare College at the University of Cambridge. 

Gates faced controversy and criticism when wrote an opinion in the New York Times examining the role played by other Africans in the slave trade, concluding that the question of reparations is difficult because of this factor. 

Vandenberg is the President and founder of The Human Trafficking Legal Center (HTLC), whose mission includes to “create a bridge between trafficking survivors and highly skilled pro bono legal representation,” in order to “[gain] compensation for survivors so that they can reclaim their lives.” HTLC is a non-profit, aiming to seek political change within the US government to facilitate compensation payouts. Vandenberg is also known for her pro bono advocacy. After graduating from Pomona College in 1990, she earned her M.Phil. from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and J.D. from Columbia Law School.

Both Gates and Vanderberg will receive honorary degrees from Pomona College at the commencement. 



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