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Taulbert joins noteworthy group of authors, filmmakers at festival

Clifton Taulbert, at right, will release his 13th book, “The Invitation,” this February and will be a part of this year’s Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.
Clifton Taulbert will release his 13th book, “The Invitation,” this February and will be a part of this year’s Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.

Clifton Taulbert’s last trip to Natchez motivated the Mississippi Delta native and famed author to spread the word about the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration across the globe.

“Being a great lover of books and of course writing, the fact that literature was such a welcomed thing there in Natchez is what really impressed me,” Taulbert said. “I often tell people when I’m traveling the world that the biggest literary celebration is not in New York City or Los Angeles, but in Natchez, Mississippi, and I honestly believe that.”

Taulbert is a Pulitzer-nominated writer who was born and reared in Glen Allan and is one of a handful of authors, filmmakers and storytellers slated to attend the 2014 NLCC.

Taulbert’s first book, “Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored,” received praise from the literary world and eventually became a highly acclaimed, major motion picture.

Since then, Taulbert, 68, has written 12 books, including the Pulitzer-nominated “The Last Train North” and the award-winning “Eight Habits of the Heart,” which earned him an invitation from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to address members of the court.

Taulbert’s 13th book “The Invitation” will be released in February and focuses on his visit to Allendale, S.C., where the history and memories he had of racial oppression in the South were rewritten.

“I don’t want to say it was the book I was born to write,” Taulbert said. “But of all the books that I have written, this is the book that I painstakingly rewrote five times to try to get it to say what I wanted it to say.”

“The Invitation” focuses on Taulbert’s dealings with a major racial division he experienced in the south — segregated bathrooms.

Taulbert recalls working at a food store in high school and being told the rules of the establishment on the first day.

“My boss took me to the back of the store where there was this door,” Taulbert said. “And this man literally turned beet red, and started shaking his finger in my face saying, ‘Under no terms are you to ever go into that bathroom — that’s ours.’”

Taulbert’s memory of that day came flashing back to him in the small South Carolina town when the need to use the bathroom came while he was a houseguest in the home of a 90-year-old women he had just met.

“The voices of ‘Little Cliff’ from yesterday came out, and I just told myself, ‘I will hold it’ because there was no way I was going to use that bathroom,” Taulbert said. “Within minutes, this lady comes over to me and leans in and says, ‘The facilities are right around the corner.’”

In one sentence, Taulbert said his memories of racial oppression were rewritten.

“I hadn’t told a living, breathing soul, but she knew,” Taulbert said. “Nearly everything I encountered, this lady went back and rewrote and rehung new pictures on the memories I had.”

It’s stories such as Taulbert’s that have NLCC founder and co-chairman Carolyn Vance Smith excited about the upcoming conference.

“There’s something there for you if you like to read, see films or talk about them with others,” Smith said. “There’s always this electricity when you have all these people come in and see each other and learn about each other.

“It’s a blessing to have such a long list of talented and riveting speakers.”

The theme for the 25th annual NLCC is, “60 Years and Counting: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement.”

The event, which is an award-winning humanities-based conference, will take place Feb. 20-23.

Lectures, films, concerts, tours, book signings and panel discussions will explore the conference theme from the aspects of history, literature, music, film, journalism and church ministries.

Registration is not required for the mostly-free conference, which is headquartered at the Natchez Convention Center.

For more information or a complete conference agenda, visit colin.edu/nlcc, email nlcc@colin.edu or call 1-866-296-6522.