Ralph Ellison and The Blues Devils: An Oklahoma Story
There are many intersections between Ellison’s fiction and non-fiction work, none more fascinating than those that relate to music, and specifically, jazz. Dr. Steven Lewis, Curator of Music and Performing Arts at the National Museum of African American History and Culture will lead a panel of Paul Devlin and I. Augustus Durham exploring the swinging nature of Ellison’s discovery of the blues and how it manifested itself in his prose.
Dr. Steven Lewis is the Curator of Music and Performing Arts at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. He has presented his research at national and international conferences and has worked with historical organizations including the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution. He holds a B.A. in jazz studies from Florida State University, an M.A. in Critical and Comparative Studies, and a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Virginia. Lewis’s areas of research include African-American political thought, late 20th-century jazz history, and 19th-century African-American music.
I. Augustus Durham is an assistant professor of English at Lehman College, CUNY, whose research focuses on black study from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. His current book project interrogates how melancholy catalyzes performances of genius; in so doing, he employs psychoanalysis and affect theory to chronicle the relationship between the black feminine/maternal and her “son” through the politics of abstraction in the black American literary and aesthetic canon. His work has been published in Black Camera: An International Film Journal, Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International, and Journal of Religion and Health; and he recently contributed an essay on the film Moonlight to an edited collection on the work of Tarell Alvin McCraney. Prior to this appointment, Durham was the President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in English at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Dr. Paul Devlin
is a scholar of American literature, with a focus on African American literature. His dissertation (2014) was on Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Albert Murray, and Percival Everett. He is the editor of Albert Murray’s previously uncollected and unpublished interviews and music writings, Murray Talks Music: Albert Murray on Jazz and Blues
(University of Minnesota Press, 2016), and Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones
(University of Minnesota Press, 2011), a finalist for the Jazz Journalists Association’s book award in 2012. He is a co-editor (with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) of the Library of America’s definitive two-volume edition of Albert Murray’s work. Volume one (Essays and Memoirs
) was published in October 2016 and volume two (Complete Novels and Poems
) will be published in early 2018. Dr. Devlin’s writing has appeared in publications such as Slate
, San Francisco Chronicle
, The New York Times Book Review
, Bomb Magazine
, The Nation
, and Popular Mechanics
, as well as in scholarly journals. He contributed twelve articles to African American National Biography
(Oxford University Press, 2008).
Made In Harlem: Ralph Ellison Seen and Unseen: In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Ralph Ellison Memorial (erected outside of Ralph and Fanny Ellison’s long-standing home on Riverside Drive) — and the 70th anniversary of Invisible Man — Made In Harlem: Ralph Ellison Seen and Unseen brings together film screenings, panel discussions, teen filmmaking/writing classes, public workshop, musical performances, readings, archival/memory projects, and Harlem walking tours for a Harlem-wide celebration. Our aim with these events is to honor and expand Ellison’s magnificent literary legacy, political convictions, and Harlem home by elaborating on the theme of (in)visibility that courses through Ellison’s work.