Dr. Elizabeth Alexander to Deliver Keynote Address at ‘Remembering Langston Hughes’ Conference

'Remembering Langston Hughes: His Art, Life, and Legacy Fifty Years Later' is a local and national forum on Langston Hughes. Since his death in May 1967, his art, particularly his poetry, has been invoked to articulate both some of the nation’s loftiest hopes and its deepest fears. The forum takes place over two days, November 10th and 11th, at Princeton University. The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is requested.

Dr. Elizabeth Alexander will deliver the keynote address for the conference on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. in McCosh Hall, Room 50. Alexander, the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University is an accomplished poet, essayist, playwright and scholar. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, a founding member of Cave Canem, and former Chair of the African American Studies Department at Yale University. In 2009, she became only the fourth poet to read her poetry at an American presidential inauguration.

Dr. Arnold Rampersad, scholar and biographer of Langston Hughes, will participate in a session with Dr. Wallace Best, chaired by Dr. Imani Perry, on Friday at 4:00 p.m. in McCosh Hall, Room 50. Rampersad, author of the biographies The Life of Langston Hughes (Oxford University Press, 2 vols, 1986, 1988) is Professor of English and the Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University. Rampersad edited The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes and Selected Letters of Langston Hughes (co-edited with the scholar David Roessel, who will also participate in the conference.) Rampersad served as the director of the Program in African American Studies at Princeton from 1994-1997, while professor of Literature at Princeton.

Additional panelists include James T. Campbell of Stanford University who will offer the conference comment; Randal Maurice Jelks, University of Kansas; John Edgar Tidwell, University of Kansas; Farah Jasmine Griffin, Columbia University; Evie Shockley, Rutgers University; Herman Beavers, University of Pennslyvania; David Roessel, Stockton University; Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper, Spelman College; Vera Kutzinski, Vanderbilt University; Anne Anlin Cheng, Princeton University; David Chinitz, Loyola University Chicago; Steven Tracy, University of Massachussetts-Amherst; Christopher De Santis, Illinois State University; Josef Sorett, Columbia University; and scholar and documentarian Carmaletta Williams. 

On Saturday evening, the conference will conclude with an evening of performances in Wallace Theater in the new Lewis Center for the Arts. Tatayania Robinson will perform Hughes’ “The Negro and the Racial Mountain,” Steven Tracy will perform musical renditions of Hughes, and poet laureate Tracy K. Smith of Princeton and Kevin Young, director of the Schomburg Center, will perform poetry.

Conference organizer Dr. Wallace Best writes, “Langston Hughes has long shaped people’s understanding of themselves and of the United States more broadly.  His powerful written works have provided insight into our painful past and hope for a future beyond the ills that have plagued our society. He was the ‘Bard of Harlem’ and he remains America’s Bard.”

The forum is jointly sponsored by several Princeton University academic departments including the Department of African American Studies, the Department of Religion, Princeton University Public Lectures, the Department of Music at Princeton, the Lewis Center for the Arts, the Department of English, the Department of Comparative Literature, the Department of History, the Center for the Study of Religion, the University Center for Human Values, the Princeton University Humanities Council, the Davis International Center, and the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies.

The keynote address and selected panels will be recorded and may stream live.

Full details can be found at conference.aas.princeton.edu.

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