Celebrate literary giants Saturday

Published 12:06 am Friday, September 5, 2014

You are invited.

The Judge George Armstrong Library is pleased to help host “The Power of Place: The Natchez Impact on Five Extraordinary Authors.”

This first free literary and film symposium is devoted to five Mississippi authors with such deep Natchez ties that Natchez shows up in their works over and over.

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On the first Saturday afternoon of each month, from September through February, this symposium will feature the lives and works of such famous writers as Richard Wright, Greg Iles, Ellen Douglas, Eudora Welty and William Johnson.

The first of the series, “Saluting Richard Wright,” is from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., Saturday at the Armstrong Library, 220 S. Commerce St., Natchez.

Wright, born near Natchez in eastern Adams County on Sept. 4, 1908, died in Paris, France, in 1960. At age 32, his novel, “Black Boy,” became the first best-selling book by an African American and the first Book of the Month Club selection by an African American.

Within the first three weeks of publication, it sold 215,000 copies and made him not only well-to-do, but also highly recognized as an accomplished author.

His autobiographical “Black Boy,” which appeared in 1945 also won widespread acclaim. The books were augmented by powerful short stories, essays and other writings throughout his life.

Though the recommended reading for Saturday’s session is Wright’s short story, “Almos’ a Man,” set in Adams County in the early 19th century, people are not required to read it in order to attend.

The agenda for Saturday afternoon includes an appealing mix of film, commentary and discussion:

The screening of “Richard Wright: Black Boy,” a BBC/Mississippi Public Broadcasting documentary film.

“The Richard Wright Ramble,” a PowerPoint discussion of Natchez-area sites associated with Richard Wright by cousin and Wright family historian, Charles Wright of Natchez.

“Lineage, Land, and Language in ‘Almos’ a Man’ ” by Dennis Harried, instructor of African-American literature, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Natchez.

The screening of the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration’s dedication ceremonies June 9, 1990, of the Richard Wright Historical Marker on the Natchez Bluff, with filmed remarks by Margaret Walker Alexander of Jackson State University, who was Wright’s friend and biographer.

A special attraction on this Saturday is the sale of the Winter 2014 issue of “The Southern Quarterly,” a journal published by the University of Southern Mississippi. In this journal is an interview of Charles Wright as he recalls how his famous cousin used Natchez scenes and events in his works. A map showing sites in Adams County and Natchez that relate to Richard Wright is also included. The journal is available for $15.

The Saturday literary series is a prologue to the 26th annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, Feb. 27-28, 2015: “Bigger Than Life: Extraordinary Mississippians.”

Sponsors of the literary series are the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Judge George W. Armstrong Public Library, Friends of the Armstrong Library, Natchez National Historical Park and Mississippi Writers Guild with support of Mississippi Public Broadcasting and Mississippi Humanities Council.

The project is directed by Carolyn Vance Smith of the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration and Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Robin Person of the NLCC and Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Kathleen Jenkins of Natchez National Historical Park, Mark LaFrancis of Mississippi Writers Guild and myself.

Registration is not required to attend the series. Continuing Education Units cost $10 and are available by emailing Emily.Edwards@colin.edu or at the door.

Future literary sessions are Oct. 4, “Saluting Greg Iles”; Nov. 1, “Saluting Ellen Douglas”; Jan. 3, “Saluting Eudora Welty”; and Feb. 7, “Saluting William Johnson.”

Information may be obtained by calling 601-446-1289 or emailing NLCC@colin.edu.


Pamela Plummer is the director of the George Armstrong Library.