Internationally-recognized poet, author and educator, E. Ethelbert Miller, joins Alexandria Library's Duncan Branch on Monday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. for his presentation, Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. Miller will trace America's social transformation from the 1920s through the Civil Rights Movement, through his examination of the celebrated African American poet and Harlem Renaissance pioneer, Langston Hughes. The library welcomes the public to attend the free seminar, which will be held at 2501 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria, Va.
"It is through the eyes of Hughes that we can understand the significance of the Great Migration of black people from the south to the north." Miller wrote in his essay, "Langston's Buddha Smile." "Hughes was a witness to the movement of black bodies from fields into factories — his people's transformation. He saw dreams fighting for sunlight in the shadows of tall buildings. He wrote of Harlem as if it were Mecca, and his work provided hope through its reliance on the survival rhythms of blues and jazz."
Miller, a literary activist, has written award-winning poetry books, two memoirs and is the editor of three poetry anthologies. He is the board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies, a board member of The Writer's Center, editor of Poet Lore, and was formerly the chair of the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. Under his supervision as Director of Howard University's African American Resource Center, the academic storehouse has been lauded nationwide. A professor who has lectured countless writing seminars, Miller has taught at colleges such as American University, Emory & Henry College and George Mason University. Mayors of Washington D.C. and Jackson, Tenn. proclaimed an "E. Ethelbert Miller Day" in 1979 and 2001, respectively.
"I can think of no better person to speak on poet, Langston Hughes, than Mr. Miller," said Walter Gross, chairman of The Duncan Friends' Adult Program Committee, which is sponsoring the event. "Obtaining one of the leading literary scholars and cultural leaders in the D.C. area to talk about a major American poetry icon and his importance to the African American struggle for equality is a major coup. Not only is Mr. Miller knowledgeable about the subject, his eloquence and informal style should make for a rich and rewarding evening."
Miller's presentation is part of the library’s 75th anniversary celebration of America's earliest known library sit-in, which took place at the Kate Waller Barrett Branch in 1939 (originally called Alexandria Library). The non-violent protest, which involved five black men sitting and reading after being refused library cards, was organized by the African American attorney, Samuel W. Tucker. Commemorative events are being held throughout the year, centering around civil rights, human rights, the African American diaspora, social freedoms and equality. Honoring the sit-in gives the institution the opportunity to shed light on a civil rights act that took place more than 15 years before the Civil Rights Movement.