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Thu, 10.23.1958

Michael Eric Dyson, Writer, Minister, and Scholar born

Michael Eric Dyson

Michael Eric Dyson was born on this date in 1958. He is a Black educator, minister, and writer.

He was born in Detroit, the son of Everett and Addie Dyson, a middle-class family. His father was an autoworker, and his mother was a paraprofessional in the city schools. Dyson was an active youngster, attending boarding school at 16.  It wasn't long before he began to feel uncomfortable around his classmates, who treated him as an outcast, often wrecking his dorm room and personal items and calling him racist names. Dyson lashed out against these students and the school and was expelled.

He returned to public high school and graduated in 1976, after which he became a teenage father-to-be living on welfare. These responsibilities led him to accept a series of maintenance and auto sales jobs. He also hustled and was a gang member, and it seemed as if this existence was going to be his life. Yet Dyson stayed with his Baptist church and slowly began to rediscover his love of oratory. With the help of his church pastor, Dyson studied and became a minister by the time he was 21.

He attended Tennessee's Knoxville College divinity school and later transferred to Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, where he earned a bachelor's degree with high honors in 1982. After doing his undergraduate work, Dyson worked as a freelance journalist. This helped him to raise money to help his younger brother, who had gone to prison in the early 1980s for second-degree murder. He worked for numerous magazines and newspapers, writing on Black popular culture and music. He then began his career in academia by accepting a graduate fellowship at Princeton University.

He also taught at Princeton, Hartford Seminary, and Chicago Theological Seminary. He earned his Ph.D. in 1993. His other academic credits include Brown University, Providence, RI, assistant professor, 1993-95; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1995-97; Columbia University, visiting distinguished professor, 1997-99; DePaul University, Chicago; Ida B. Wells-Barnett University professor, 1999-2002; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Avalon Foundation professor, 2002.

He married his second wife, Marcia Louise, in 1992; and has two children, Michael II and Maisha. Called one of a group of "new intellectuals," scholar Michael Eric Dyson is a professor, lecturer, and author who addresses issues of race and culture on television and in publications from the Christian Century to Rolling Stone.

He is also a commentator on National Public Radio, MSNBC, and CNN and is a regular guest on Real Time with Bill Maher.  In May 2018, he participated in the Munk debate on political correctness, arguing alongside Michelle Goldberg against Stephen Fry and Jordan Peterson. In August 2018, he spoke at the funeral of Aretha Franklin.

To be a Writer


Michael Eric

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