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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Wilson is a cultural historian offering power to the powerless

and bridging Christianity and African Spirituality   



August Wilson Plays and Critical Perspectives

August Wilson Century Cycle  /  Fences  / Piano Lesson  / Gem of the Ocean  / Joe Turner's Come and Gone 

Radio Golf  /  King Hedley II  /  Jitney  /  Two Trains Running  /  August Wilson: Three Plays  /  Seven Guitars  

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom  / The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson / August Wilson and Black Aesthetics

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Situating August Wilson 

in the Canon and in the Curriculum

A Two-Day Symposium 

Howard University April 8-9, 2005

The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson


On April 8 and 9, 2005, Howard University will be the site for a groundbreaking symposium on the works of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright August Wilson. Entitled Situating August Wilson in the Canon and in the Curriculum: A Two-Day Symposium, this interdisciplinary forum among scholars, educators, critics, and theatre practitioners will affirm August Wilson's place within the academy as one of the foremost interpreters of the African-American experience.   The symposium will feature innovative and informative panels, performance-based workshops, roundtable discussions as well as book signings by nationally and internationally known Wilson scholars.   The stellar lineup of participants will include critically acclaimed actresses of the stage and screen,  Phylicia Rashad and Rosalyn Coleman and veteran actor Charles S. Dutton.  

The two-day event, coordinated by Dr. Sandra G. Shannon, Professor in the Department of English and August Wilson scholar, is made possible by a grant from the Howard University Fund for Academic Excellence.  To view the exciting list of sessions, click on

For more information, contact Dr. Sandra G. Shannon at 202-806-5443 or at

Situating August Wilson in the Canon and in the Curriculum:  A Two-Day Symposium

April 8-9, 2005 Howard University Washington, DC  20059


Thursday, April 7: *Opening Night of The Piano Lesson                       8:00 p.m.

Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth Street, Washington, DC

Friday, April 8: Registration/ Continental Breakfast/ Book Exhibits   8:00 - 9:00 a.m.        

North Corridor, Blackburn Center               

Opening Plenary:  Welcome, Symposium Highlights, Introductions       9:00 - 10:00 a.m.

Forum, Blackburn Center                                                                                  

Session I: REWRITING HISTORY: THE PLAYS                               10:00 - 11:15 a.m.

Forum, Blackburn Center

“Getting Justice: The Discourse of Fulfillment in Two Trains Running

Barbara Lewis, University of Massachusetts-Boston

“Fighting the Blues: The Plays of August Wilson”

Clay Goss, Morgan State University

“The Storytelling Challenge in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Other August Wilson Plays”

Von Washington, Sr., Western Michigan University

*As guests of Washington, DC’s Arena Stage Theatre, symposium panelists and other invited speakers will attend the Opening Night performance of August Wilson’ The Piano Lesson. The Shuttle Bus for all invited guests will depart from the front of Cramton Auditorium at 7 p.m. sharp. 

Session II: ‘BLOOD’S MEMORY’: CULTURE AND HISTORY      10:00 - 11:15 a.m.

Auditorium, Blackburn Center

"August Wilson: Cultural Historian Offering Power to the Powerless and Bridging Christianity and African Spirituality”

Elvira Jensen-Casado, Catholic University of Saint Anthony, Murcia, Spain

“What He Learned from Zora: August Wilson as Ethnographer”

Ladrica Menson-Furr, University of Memphis

“Waiting for the Wrap: August Wilson and the Historical Record”

Alan Nadel, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

TALK-BACK SESSION: The Piano Lesson                                    11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Ira Aldridge Theatre

*Charles S. Dutton and Rosalyn Coleman / Molly Smith and Seret Scott

*LUNCH                                                                                               12:30 – 1:15 p.m.    


Sponsored by the Honors Program of the College of Arts and Sciences, 

Howard University Gallery Lounge, Blackburn Center


Directed by Dr. Tony Medina, Professor of Creative Writing, 

Howard University  Gallery Lounge, Blackburn Center

KEYNOTE ADDRESS:                                                                        1:30 – 230 p. m.

Forum, Blackburn Center

August Wilson and the Doing and Undoing of History

Dr. Harry J. Elam, Jr. Editor, Theatre Journal 

Olive H. Palmer Professor in the Humanities 

Stanford University

*Blackburn Center restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  “The Punch-Out,” located on the lower level  of the Blackburn Center, offers alternative cuisine, such as Chik-Filet, pizzas, burgers, and fresh salads.

Session III: FIGHTING AGAINST HISTORY:  AUGUST WILSON’S ‘MARKED’ MEN                                                                                                       3:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Auditorium, Blackburn Center

“From Wanna-Be Righteous Brother to Dysfunctional Fathers:  The Challenges to Black Manhood in August Wilson’s Work”

Kimmika L. H. Williams-Witherspoon, Temple University

"Troy Maxson is No Loman”

Chris Bell, Georgia Military College

SESSION IV:  THEORIZING AUGUST WILSON                           3:00-4:00 p.m.

Forum, Blackburn Center

“Answering August Wilson’s Call: A Signifying Black Aesthetic Theory"

Hershell Norwood, Texas Tech University

"August Wilson’s Poetics”

Mikell Pinkney, University of Florida

"The Holy Ghost, the Son, and the Father: A Theory of Syncretism, Inversion, and Cultural Memory in August Wilson’s King Hedley II

Aaron Bryant, University of Maryland at College Park

SCHOLARS’ ROUNDTABLE                                                        4:10 – 5:30 p.m.

Forum, Blackburn Center

Margaret Booker, Harry J. Elam, Jr., Marilyn Elkins, Alan Nadel, Mikell Pinkney, Kim Pereira, and Sandra Shannon

Moderated by Sandra Richards, Northwestern University

BOOK-SIGNING, RECEPTION                                                    5:30 – 7:00 p.m.

Sponsored by Howard University Press / Howard University Bookstore / 2225 Georgia Avenue

“The Long Walk of Courage: An Evening with Harry Belafonte”            7:00 p.m

Cramton Auditorium

Saturday, April 9: Registration/ Continental Breakfast              8:00 - 9:00 a.m.

Atrium, Recital Hall / 3002 Fine Arts Building

WELCOME                                                                                           9:00 -9:10 a.m.

Recital Hall / 3001 Fine Arts Building                                                                                                                                       


Smart Room, 3013 Fine Arts Building

“Interactive Teaching with August Wilson’s Texts”

Caleen Sinnette Jennings, American University

“The African American Experience: An Interdisciplinary Examination of Five Plays by August Wilson”

Jack Balcer, Barry Hollar, Kristina Cotis, and Rachel Straley Shenandoah University

“Teaching Moments in August Wilson’s Plays”

Kathryn Ervin, California State University at San Bernardino

SESSION VI: TEACHING PERFORMANCE AND PERFORMING TEACHING WITH AUGUST WILSON                                                               9:10 – 10:30 a.m.

Recital Hall, 3001 Fine Arts Building

“Rewriting History: Stage Sets as Sites of Memory in August Wilson’s Published Plays”

Margaret Booker, Stanford University

“Teaching Imagery and Symbolism in August Wilson’s Plays”

Yvonne Shafer, St. Johns University

“Wilson’s Women as Teachers: Using August Wilson’s Female Characters to Explore the African American Experience”

Vivian Gist Spencer, Anne Arundel Community College

SESSION VII: NEGOTIATING CLASSROOM DYNAMICS WHILE TEACHING AUGUST WILSON                                                                        10:30-12 noon

Recital Hall, 3001 Fine Arts Building

“Black Text-White Teacher: Classroom Negotiations of Racial Difference and the Texts of August Wilson”

Marilyn Elkins, California State University, Los Angeles

“Black Teacher, Black Text, and a Predominantly White Class”: Some Challenges in Teaching August Wilson”

Beth Turner, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts

“The Kiln in Which I Was Fired”: Wilson’s Politics in Public, in the Plays, and in the Classroom”

Richard Noggle, University of Kansas


Smart Room, 3013 Fine Arts Building

“August Wilson Gives Us the Goddess: The Gem of the Hill in the Ten-Play Cycle”

Kimberly C. Ellis, University of Houston

“Teaching Jitney as an Introduction to the Wilson Canon”

Noe Montez, Indiana University

“Living for the City: The 20th Century Black Urban Environment  as Seen through the Artistry of August Wilson”
Charles Dumas, Penn State University

*LUNCH                                                                                            12:30 – 1:15 p.m.

 Cafeteria, Lower Level Blackburn Center                                                                                             

LUNCHEON FOR PRESENTERS                                                12:30 – 1:15 p.m.

Sponsored by the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

Hilltop Lounge, Blackburn Center

*Symposium guests may dine in the Cafeteria located on the lower level of the Blackburn Center at your own expense.

CULMINATING SYMPOSIUM ADDRESS                                   1:30 – 2:00 p.m.

Recital Hall, 3001 Fine Arts Building

The Ground on Which We Stand: Developing Artists and Critics Discuss August Wilson"
College of Arts & Sciences Honors Program Students               
2:00 – 3: 00 p.m

Directed by Professors Kim Bey and Sybil Roberts-Williams, Howard University. 

Recital Hall, 3001 Fine Arts Building

CLOSING REMARKS                                                                  3:00 – 3:30 p.m.                   Recital Hall, 3001 Fine Arts Building

BOOK SIGNING                                                                              4:00 – 5:00 p.

Fine Arts Building

 *    *    *    *

Situating August Wilson in the Canon and in the Curriculum: A Two-Day Symposium 

is made possible by generous support from the following:

Howard University’s Fund for Academic Excellence

Arena Stage Theatre

College of Arts and Sciences Office of the Dean and Honors Program

The Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Assessment (CETLA)

Howard University’s Department of Theatre Arts

For more information, contact Dr. Sandra G. Shannon at 202-806-5443 or at


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Gem of the World

By August Wilson

Set in 1904, 285 year-old Aunt Esther welcomes two strangers into her home. Solly Two Kings, a former Union Army-man who was born into slavery; and Citizen Barlow, a young man in search for redemption. Aunt Esther guides Citizen through a spiritual journey to the mythical City of Bones aboard the legendary slave ship, Gem of the Ocean. Meanwhile, chaos ensues in the real world where Solly is wrongfully accused of a crime and gets shot as a result. Come to our performance to find out how this magnificent story unravels.

No one except perhaps Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams has aimed so high and achieved so much in the American theater.—John Lahr, The New Yorker

A swelling battle hymn of transporting beauty. Theatergoers who have followed August Wilson’s career will find in Gem a touchstone for everything else he has written.”—Ben Brantley, The New York Times

Wilson’s juiciest material. The play holds the stage and its characters hammer home, strongly, the notion of newfound freedom.—Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.

Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong.Jamie Byng, Guardian

Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

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The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest.

Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

By Pauline Maier

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly).

Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state convention’s verdict affected another’s. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.Booklist

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 29 February 2012




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Related Files: The Ground on Which I Stand   Professor Sandra Shannon   Situating August Wilson   The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson    Writing on Napkins

Ayodele Nzinga Directs Gem of the Ocean   Duet for The Godfather   Blessings Are Due  Leonard Peltier: Letter to a Relative  Beyond Religion toward Spirituality