Authors of ‘Picking Cotton’ to speak on campus March 2

The co-authors of the New York Times best-seller “Picking Cotton” will visit Western Carolina University to give a public lecture Monday, March 2.

Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson

Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson

“Picking Cotton” is the joint memoir of Jennifer Thompson, a native of North Carolina who was brutally raped as a college student in 1994, and of Ronald Cotton, a man who was exonerated of the rape through DNA evidence 11 years after his conviction. In their presentation, the authors will explore themes of race, gender, rape and its aftermath, justice, forensic science and forgiveness.

Thompson and Cotton will speak at 7 p.m. in the Grandroom of WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center and take part in a question-and-answer session with the audience from 8 to 8:30 p.m. The presentation is free and open to the public. The authors will sign copies of their book from 8:30 to 9 p.m.

Thompson and Cotton are now advocate for judicial reform, the need to combat sexual violence, abolition of the death penalty, the fallibility of eyewitness testimony, and the healing power of forgiveness. Together, they have successfully lobbied state legislators to change compensation laws for the wrongly convicted, to abolish the death penalty and to revise police eyewitness line-up procedures.

The presentation is associated with WCU’s interdisciplinary learning theme for the academic year, “North Carolina: Our State, Our Time.” Programs and initiatives across campus are exploring the state’s history, culture and impact.

For more information about the event, contact Jamie Vaske, assistant professor in WCU’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, at or 828-227-3615.