Mumia Abu-Jamal, 1994 file photo
CLARK KISSINGER/AFP/Getty Images

Students at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., have selected Pennsylvania inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal to be their commencement speaker, Reuters reports

The liberal arts college will have the ceremony Sunday, when a recorded speech by the former death row prisoner will be played, the news agency notes.

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Abu-Jamal was at first sentenced to death after being convicted of first-degree murder in the 1981 killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. The trial, Reuters notes, was controversial and highly criticized by human rights group Amnesty International, among others. The former black nationalist carved out a name for himself in prison for his commentary on the U.S. justice system. In 2011 his death sentence was commuted to life without parole, Reuters reports.

According to Reuters, the Vermont college is known for “flexible academic programs” that are sometimes crafted by students. There will be 23 students receiving their degrees in the ceremony at which the convicted inmate will speak.  

“Choosing Mumia as their commencement speaker, to me, shows how this newest group of Goddard graduates expresses their freedom to engage and think radically and critically in a world that often sets up barriers to do just that," Goddard College President Bob Kenny said, according to the news agency.

It was Goddard that presented Abu-Jamal with a bachelor’s degree in 1996.

Read more at Reuters.