Black History Month at the library

Mary Pom ClaiborneDowntown

Knox County Public Library is pleased to present programs that illuminate a small portion of a complex Black history formed by genius, suffering, beauty and grace.

Eric Reed

The public is invited to join world-renowned jazz pianist Eric Reed for a free lecture/performance series called “Life in the Key of Blues“ on Feb 5 and 12 at 2 p.m. in Lawson McGhee Library, 500 Church Ave. Blues is the foundation on which all American popular music is built from gospel to jazz to rock ‘n roll to hip hop. “Without the blues, life would just be gray,” says Reed.

Reed is a jazz pianist and composer who toured with Wynton Marsalis (1987, 1990, 1991, 1992-1995). He worked with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (1996-1998) and released albums from 1990-2014.

Three of his albums have charted on the Billboard’ Top Jazz Album Chart, with 1998s Pure Imagination peaking at No. 8. Reed has also worked as a composer scoring music for films including Life featuring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence.

Reed credits the public library for helping him explore recordings of great jazz pianists saying, “My neighborhood library had all kinds of hip jazz albums, and I was there every day checking them out. Everything was there: Ahmad Jamal, Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, McCoy Turner – it was incredible! By the time I was 13, I didn’t realize it, but I had digested all of the standard jazz recordings that working musicians were expected to know.”

Life in the Key of Blues is made possible by an Arts Builds Community Grant from Arts & Cultural Alliance and Tennessee Arts Commission.

LITERATURE: Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner

Tom Haddox

Later in the month, the public is invited to join UT English professor Dr. Thomas Haddox for a free discussion of William Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust.

Published in 1948, Intruder in the Dust is still considered to be a bold and unflinching statement on racism. The novel focuses on an African American farmer, Lucas Beauchamp, who is accused of murdering a Caucasian man. Copies of the book are available through the library.

Discussions will take place on:

  • February 21 at 6:30 p.m. at Cedar Bluff Branch Library
  • February 26 at 2 p.m. at Lawson McGhee Library
  • February 28 at 6:30 at Fountain City Branch Library

Faulkner is one of the most significant American authors of all time. Born in New Albany, Mississippi, in 1897, he lived in Oxford most of his life.

His novels and short stories are set in the fictitious Yoknapatawpha County and span the century before and after the Civil War. Most of his fiction depicts the decay and collapse of a society that refused to recognize or reckon with the consequences of its racism.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” he wrote. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949.

THEATER: The African American Moviegoing Experience in Knoxville’s Segregated Era

East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay Street, Feb 15 at noon

Robert J. Booker will delve into the history of the African American moviegoing experience in Knoxville in a conversation with Knoxville History Project Executive Director Jack Neely. Mr. Booker will discuss the city’s segregated Black theaters from the early 1900s to the 1960s, as well as his experiences at the Bijou Theatre, where African Americans were required to view movies from the balcony.

This program is free and open to the public. It coincides with the Museum of East Tennessee History’s current exhibit, Lights! Camera! East Tennessee!

Mary Pom Claiborne is assistant director for marketing, communications and development for Knox County Public Library

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