AUBURN – Celebrations in both New York and Auburn in June will pay tribute to Alabama native Albert Murray, essayist, novelist and cultural critic. Each event will feature a discussion of the book, “Albert Murray and the Aesthetic Imagination of a Nation.”
Jazz at Lincoln Center will host a panel discussion on June 17 to honor Murray, who was instrumental in its founding. The Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University will host a public book talk celebration on June 30 at 4 p.m. at the University Chapel.
“Albert Murray and the Aesthetic Imagination of a Nation,” the first book of scholarly and personal essays on Murray, is edited by Barbara Baker, director of the College of Liberal Arts Women’s Leadership Institute. It includes contributions by the dean of Auburn’s College of Liberal Arts, Anne-Katrin Gramberg; Tuskegee University English professor Caroline Gebhard; author Bert Hitchcock; Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates; and musician Wynton Marsalis.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center panel discussion, which is free and open to the public, will be held in The Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Studio at Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Members of the panel will include Baker; Paul Devlin, SUNY Stony Brook; Roberta S. Maguire, University of Wisconsin; Sidney Offit, New School for Social Research; Greg Thomas, jazz educator, print and broadcast journalist, former host of Jazz It Up!; and Lauren Walsh, New York University.
The Auburn program will feature Baker, Hitchcock, Gebhard and other contributors and will be followed by a reception. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing at both events.
“Albert Murray and the Aesthetic Imagination of a Nation” is published by Pebble Hill Books, a cooperative publishing venture of the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities and the University of Alabama Press.
The collection includes essays on various aspects of Murray’s work written by prominent scholars of African American literature, jazz and Albert Murray. It also includes reminiscences from Murray’s friends and associates, and interviews with Murray himself. The collection testifies to Murray’s place as a central figure in African American arts and letters and as an American cultural pioneer.
Born in Nokomis, Ala., in 1916, and raised in Mobile, Albert Murray graduated from Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University, in 1939. He later taught there and at many other colleges. He retired as a major from the U.S. Air Force in 1962 and moved to New York City, where he resides with his wife Mozelle. He is the author of many critically acclaimed books, including “The Omni-Americans,” a collection of essays; “South to a Very Old Place,” a memoir; “The Hero and the Blues,” a comparative critical essay; “Train Whistle Guitar,” a novel; “Good Morning Blues: The Autobiography of Count Basie as told to Albert Murray”; and “Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Albert Murray and Ralph Ellison.” Murray is also the author of “Stomping the Blues,” a classic work on the history, influence, development and meaning of the blues. Murray has served on the board of Jazz at Lincoln Center for many years.
The Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities is the Auburn University College of Liberal Arts center for public engagement. It strengthens the bonds between the College of Liberal Arts and the public by creating and implementing arts and humanities programs that explore our individual and collective experiences, values, and identities through the past, in the present, and for the future.
(Contributed by Maiben Beard.)