- A celebrated poet, author, filmmaker and educator – the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University – Dr. Angelou was a close friend of James Baldwin for over three decades. They had much in common: early years as African-American expatriates in Paris; careers as a best-selling authors; civil rights activism; later years as college professors; and decades of reading each other’s works-in-progress. Because of this, she was our most important collaborator during production of the original BALDWIN film, both off-screen and on. She served as a Scholar/Advisor, an on-camera Witness, and the on-camera ‘Reader’ who helped us select and interpret Baldwin’s texts. Over the years, her collaboration with us continued: she supported our film restoration – and recorded voiceovers for our 50-minute version of BALDWIN, so that students could watch it within a single class period. Completed just a few months before her death, this was one of her last acts of love for “Brother Jimmy.” [ Full Bio ]
- Henry Louis Gates was 14 when he first ‘met’ Baldwin, and discovered that black people, too, wrote books. The book was Notes of A Native Son. Gates describes the experience: “I could not put the book down. I raced through it, then others…” Decades later – by then a well-known author himself – Gates became our Senior Scholar/Advisor during production of the original BALDWIN. His support helped make our film possible. Currently the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Gates continues to be a prolific author – including the recent Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008, and Finding Your Roots: The Official Companion to the PBS Series. He is also an accomplished filmmaker: his six-part PBS series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2013) won many awards including an Emmy. In addition, he brings extensive digital experience to our project: his PBS website offers excellent lesson plans and interactive options; he is Editor-in-Chief of both TheRoot.com, a daily online magazine, and the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field. [ Full Bio ]
- Professor Bracey has taught in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst since 1972 and was instrumental in bringing James Baldwin to UMass in the 1980s as a Five College Professor. Bracey is now serving a second stint as department chair, and is co-director of the department’s graduate certificate in African Diaspora Studies. His major academic interests are in African American social history, radical ideologies and movements; the history of African American Women; and, more recently, the interactions between Native Americans, African Americans and Afro-Latinos in the United States. During the 1960s, Bracey was active in the Civil Rights, Black Liberation and other radical movements in Chicago. Since his arrival at UMass he has maintained those interests and commitments both on campus and in the wider world. His scholarship includes editorial work on the microfilm series Black Studies Research Sources (LexisNexis); his publications include several co-edited volumes: Black Nationalism in America (1970); the prize winning African American Women and the Vote: 1837-1965 (1997); Strangers and Neighbors: Relations between Blacks and Jews in the United States (with Maurianne Adams, 1999); African American Mosaic: A Documentary History from the Slave Trade to the Twenty-First Century (with Manisha Sinha, 2004); and SOS -
Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader (with James Smethurst and Sonia Sanchez, 2014).
- Rich Blint is associate director of Columbia University School of the Arts Office of Community Outreach and Education and research affiliate and adjunct assistant professor in the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia. He is co-editor (with Douglas Field) of a special issue of African American Review on James Baldwin (Winter 2013) and contributing editor of The James Baldwin Review. Rich was the principal organizer (also with Field) of the international conference, "James Baldwin Global Imagination," which was held at several sites through out New York City (2011), and was one of the chief architects of The Year of James Baldwin, a city-wide, multi-disciplinary celebration of the life, work, and legacies of James Baldwin on the occasion of his 90th year (April 2014-June 2015). Rich is also curator and co-curator, respectively, of the exhibitions The First Sweet Music (2014) and Bigger Than Shadows (2012, with Ian Cofre). He is also curator of the exhibition series built environments at Columbia, an initiative conceived to engage contemporary issues in fine art concerning aesthetics, value, difference, and public space. Rich earned his doctorate in the Program in American Studies at NYU and is currently at work on his book project, Trembling on the Edge of Confession: James Baldwin and Racial Iconicity in Modern American Culture. Recent work is forthcoming in the JBR, Anthropology Now, and a volume on African American Literature in the 1980s by Cambridge University Press. He sits on the boards of Vanderbilt University’s Issues in Critical Investigation: The African Diaspora, and CLAGS: The Center for LGBQT Studies at the Graduate and University Center, CUNY.
- A writer and academic, Dr. Douglas Field is a lecturer in 20th-century American Literature at the University of Manchester, UK. He first read James Baldwin during his undergraduate degree, an encounter that shaped not only his academic career, but also his philosophical, political and aesthetic outlook. In addition, Field is co-founding editor of the James Baldwin Review and the editor of A Historical Guide to James Baldwin (2009). In 2011, he organised the international Baldwin conference in New York, “James Baldwin’s Global Imagination,” in collaboration with Rich Blint of Columbia University; in 2013, he and Blint co-edited the first African American Review special issue devoted to Baldwin. Field has also written a number of articles on Baldwin, including pieces for the Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement, where he is a frequent contributor, as well as two recent books: James Baldwin (2011) and All Those Strangers: The Art and Lives of James Baldwin (2015). He is currently trying to write about someone else, but with little success.
- Editor of the highly-regarded African American Review and Associate
Professor of English at St. Louis University since 2008, Dr. Grant’s
long-standing admiration of James Baldwin has culminated in the recent
AAR Special Issue (Winter, 2013) devoted exclusively to analyses of
Baldwin’s writings and cultural influences: the first critical special issue ever devoted to Baldwin. Also an author in his own right, Grant’s numerous publications focus on African American literature, culture and intellectual history – including explorations of August Wilson, Countee Cullen, Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, Owen Dodson and, of course, James Baldwin. In addition, Grant has been a Fulbright scholar and is a frequent lecturer and panelist.
- Dr. Joseph is Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy and Professor of History at Tufts University. The recipient of fellowships from Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Ford Foundation, Joseph received a B.A. from SUNY at Stony Brook and a Ph.D. from Temple University – and credits Baldwin for having shaped his academic experience. Now an award-winning author, Joseph’s books include Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America; Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama; and the newly released Stokely: A Life. He is also the editor of The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era, and Neighborhood Rebels: Black Power at the Local Level. In addition, he is a well-published essayist and a frequent observer on issues of race, democracy, and civil rights: his articles appear in newspapers from The Washington Post to The New York Times; his commentary is featured on National Public Radio, The Colbert Report, PBS, and MSNBC.
- An award-winning writer, biographer and educator, Kenan frequently states that James Baldwin is one of his idols. Already, he has authored two books on Baldwin – a young adult biography and a collection of Baldwin’s unpublished essays – but the connection between them goes beyond admiration. Currently an Associate Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan was raised in rural North Carolina where as a young African-American homosexual he struggled with issues of identity, morality and self-acceptance … just as the young Jimmy Baldwin struggled with similar issues in his urban environment. As adults, they both turned to writing. Like Baldwin, Kenan explores racial and sexual boundaries in his fiction; like Baldwin, Kenan assesses the state of the black community in his non-fiction. They both wrestle with questions of religion, sexuality, class inequality and racial ‘progress’ – and both confront the truth with eloquence. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Randall Kenan continues Baldwin’s literary tradition of ‘telling it on the mountain.’“ [ Full Bio ]
- Humanities professor and author David Leeming – known for his biographies as well as numerous books on mythology and religion – was also a close friend of James Baldwin. He first knew Jimmy in Turkey, then served as his personal assistant for a time and, ultimately, became his biographer. As one of our Scholar/Advisors on the original BALDWIN film, Leeming brought years of writing, teaching and astute literary analysis to the project, along with his personal understanding of Jimmy. Leeming’s insights helped shape our film: in part, by exploring how religion influenced Baldwin’s writings … and by defining the source of Baldwin’s personal demons. In essence, Leeming sees Baldwin as an Old Testament prophet, a much-needed “voice in the wilderness” whose essays are sermons and whose novels are parables, all written in hopes of improving the human condition. “Baldwin’s importance – now some 25 years after his passing – cannot be easily over-estimated. His words are still vital, and he deserves to be heard.” [ Full Bio ]
- Dr. Mitchell is an award-winning literary historian and cultural critic. As an associate professor of English at Ohio State University, she specializes in African American literature, racial violence throughout U.S. literature and culture, black drama & performance. As a scholar and author, she examines how texts – both written and performed – have helped terrorized families and communities survive and thrive. She also teaches a seminar on Baldwin, and considers him a "guiding light" whose influence can be seen in all of her work. Her 2011 study Living with Lynching: African American Plays, Performance and Citizenship received two book awards; her next book, From Slave Cabins to the White House will be published in 2016. She is also a well-published essayist – including “James Baldwin, Performance Theorist, Sings the Blues for Mister Charlie” (American Quarterly, March 2012).
- Dr. Miller's long-standing interest in James Baldwin began when he was earning his Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut under the tutelage of Baldwin biographer David Leeming. Now Professor and Chair of English at Suffolk University in Boston, Miller is passing the torch to the next generation by teaching Baldwin in a variety of contexts to undergraduates. He has written extensively on Baldwin, including over twenty articles and reference volume entries. His most recent book is "A Criminal Power": James Baldwin and the Law (Ohio State UP, 2012) and his most recent Baldwin articles appeared in African American Review and The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin. In addition, Miller organized the 2009 Baldwin conference in Boston and co-organized the 2013 conference in Montpellier, France. He recently authored an article that will appear in the inaugural issue of The James Baldwin Review. Other current projects include The Routledge Introduction to African American Literature, a volume on American literature of the 1980s, and Understanding John Edgar Wideman.
- An award-winning poet and author of numerous works on James Baldwin,
Dr. Pavlić is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia. About to be published is his ‘Who Can Afford to Improvise?’: James Baldwin and Black Music, the Lyric and the Listeners (2015); not yet published is No Time To Rest: James Baldwin’s Life in Letters to his Brother David (currently under review at James Baldwin Estate). In 2014, his most recent book of poetry Let’s Let That Are Not Yet: Inferno won the National Poetry Series Open Competition. In 2012, his Visiting Hours at the Color Line won the same award. Other prizes include the AAR Darwin Turner Award, The American Poetry Review / Honickman First Book Prize, and the Author of the Year Award from The Georgia Writers Association. In 2008, his Winners Have Yet to be Announced was voted “Poetry Collection of the Year”; in 2009, it was adapted to the stage by Black Poetic Ventures. He is the recipient of multiple fellowships, including the 2012 Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Residential Fellowship at Harvard, and has taught poetry at Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia and Kenya.
- A renowned biographer, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and a MacArthur ‘genius,’ Arnold Rampersad is Stanford University’s Sara Hart Kimball Professor Emeritus in the Humanities. Back in early 1989, Rampersad was a member of the National Endowment for the Humanities panel who approved our original post-production grant for BALDWIN … and in June of the same year, he chaired a two-day panel on James Baldwin at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The program opened with a tribute by Toni Morrison and a screening of the almost-completed BALDWIN film. Subsequently, Rampersad wrote a glowing critique of the film for California Newsreel, our educational distributor. “Not to be missed by anyone to whom Baldwin’s writing is important! A poignant, unforgettable commentary on his ideas.” Now, decades later, Rampersad is an official Scholar/Advisor of the James Baldwin Transmedia Project. In 2015, he co-edited the book "Selected Letters of Langston Hughes" which received glowing reviews. As both an acclaimed professor of literature and the author of biographies ranging from Langston Hughes to Ralph Ellison, his advice will be invaluable during this latest iteration of Baldwin. [ Full Bio ]
- From 2007- 2012, Dr. Shabazz served as Chair of the DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst – the same department where James Baldwin taught back in the 1980s as a Five-College Professor. A Fulbright Senior Specialist, author and lecturer, Dr. Shabazz is now both a Umass Professor of Afro-American Studies and the Umass Faculty Advisor for Diversity and Excellence in the Office of the Chancellor. A recipient of many awards and fellowships, Shabazz is known for his advocacy related to race and professional advancement; his works include Advancing Democracy: African Americans and the Struggle for Access and Equity in Higher Education in Texas. He is also a well-known community activist in Central Massachusetts where he chairs -- and emcees – numerous civic events such as the annual Juneteenth Jamboree. In 2015, in honor of James Baldwin’s 90th birthday, Shabazz has agreed to serve as both a Community Coordinator and Audience Moderator for “Conversations with Jimmy.”
- A blues singer/harmonica player who has opened for B.B. King, Muddy Waters and many others – and has recorded with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra – Steve Tracy uses his music to enhance his teachings on Baldwin and other writers. A Fulbright Senior Specialist and Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Tracy is also a prolific author: he has written, edited, co-edited, or provided introductions for thirty-one books; provided over seventy contributions to book publications edited by others; written over fifty CD liner notes; and taught, lectured, and presented papers in the US, Canada, England, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Israel, and China. His Writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance was published by the University of Illinois Press in 2011. His Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature will be published by the University of Alabama Press in 2015. In May-June, 2012, Tracy lectured and taught as a Fulbright Senior Specialist at the University of Konstanz in Germany. In 2013, he was selected for the Chu Tian Scholar Award, the most prestigious scholar award in Hubei Province, China – which will support his residence in Wuhan, China, two months a year for the next six years.
- Dr. Zaborowska first encountered James Baldwin on television, as a young high school student in Poland. A decade later, as a young professor in the U.S., she switched her original focus on immigrant writers to a concentration on Baldwin and African Diaspora literatures of the 20th century. Along with numerous essays on Baldwin, her most recent book is the award-winning Baldwin’s Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile (2014). Her soon-to-be-published third book is Me and My House: James Baldwin and Black Domesticity. Currently a Professor at the University of Michigan – in both the Department of American Culture and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies – Zaborowska received the 2014 Michigan Humanities Award from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. She was also the Huntington Humanities Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities in 2010, and the Distinguished Visiting Professor of African American Studies at universities in both France and Italy. Other books include How We Found America: Reading Gender through East European Immigrant Narratives and various edited collections.
JAMES BALDWIN PROJECT
Scholar / Advisor Bios
Dr. Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014)
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
John H. Bracey, Jr.
Peniel E. Joseph
Randall Garrett Kenan
David A. Leeming
D. Quentin Miller
Steven C. Tracy
Magdalena J. Zaborowska
. . . . . . .