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Yearlong program celebrates American author James Baldwin

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The at 鶹Ƶ, in collaboration with a dozen community partners, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of author James Baldwin with a 13-month series of public events and community readings.

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The Baldin100 was created by Richard L. Heffner, an assistant professor of graphic design in 鶹Ƶ's School of Art.

A novelist, essayist, and famed orator, Baldwin was born in Harlem in 1924 and died St.Paul de Vence, France, in 1987. Known for such works as Giovanni’s Room, The Fire Next Time, and If Beale Street Could Talk, Baldwin’s writings have been both banned and widely celebrated, a testimony to his powerful voice.

“Thirty-seven years after his death, James Baldwin still matters as an uncompromising moralist and visionary, a self-proclaimed ‘disturber of the peace’ whose art and activism radiated his belief in America and his unstinting desire to help our country honor its foundational principles of liberty and equality without regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, class, religion, and other classifications, which have been deployed to marginalize, silence, and dispossess,” said 鶹Ƶ Distinguished University Professor Keith Clark.

Cheuse Center Director Leeya Mehta said she noticed James Baldwin wasn't familiar to her students, only about four out of more than 150, had heard his name, and only one remembered an essay from high school.

“For Baldwin, leaving America made him see America more clearly. He lived for decades in Turkey and France,” said Mehta. “The 鶹Ƶ student community is so diverse, and we hope that this international Baldwin will reiterate how important this diversity is."

The centennial celebration called the kicks off this month and will engage the 鶹Ƶ community, Fairfax County, and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in exploring Baldwin’s works. Program highlights include the following:

  • “Why Baldwin Matters” Symposium: April 17, Fairfax Campus, noon-5 p.m.

A day-long symposium featuring Baldwin biographer and longtime friend of Baldwin David Leeming, Baldwin scholar and 鶹Ƶ Distinguished University Professor Keith Clark, 鶹Ƶ student Rae Mitchell, educator and researcher Deborah Tulani Salahu-Din, a museum curator in at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and writer and friend of Baldwin’s, author Nicholas Delbanco.

  • Busboys and Poets Lecture: “Jimmy and Me—and Our Interconnected Future as Americans, by renowned poet and civil rights activist Nikki Giovanni, April 23, Sherwood Center, Fairfax, 6:30 p.m.

Giovanni will speak to the public about Baldwin’s legacy, including themes of belonging and exile, friendship, sexuality, community, and interconnected idealism. The lecture is sponsored by independent bookstore chain Busboys and Poets in partnership with several groups.

  • Blues for Mister Charlie, a staged reading, Sept. 9, 7 p.m., Blackbox Theater, Fairfax Campus

In collaboration with 鶹Ƶ’s School of Theater, theater students will perform a staged reading of Blues for Mister Charlie, one of Baldwin’s two theatrical works.

  • Baldwin100 Reads

The is a common book list that will allows readers to connect with texts and then have a shared conversational experience.

  • Baldwin100 Watches Films

A related to Baldwin and his life has made these available to 鶹Ƶ students through a partnership with the University Libraries. Public screenings of several films are also planned.

The Baldwin100 is a community partnership with Busboys and Poets, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the City of Fairfax, Fairfax County Public Library, Maryland Humanities, and the Library of Congress Center for the Book. Within 鶹Ƶ, partners include 鶹Ƶ Exhibitions, University Libraries, the School of Theater, the School of Art, the Department of English, and the African and African American Studies Program.

A collaborative curatorial model has brought representatives from these organizations together to create an expanding public humanities and arts initiative, which includes Baldwin’s friends and contemporaries and 鶹Ƶ students for an intergenerational community experience.

Founded in memory of 鶹Ƶ professor and writer Alan Cheuse and part of 鶹Ƶ’s Watershed Lit, the Cheuse Center is a global community of writers, translators, and readers. Since its founding in 2016, the center has featured more than 180 international writers and has sent 23 鶹Ƶ graduate students abroad to research their writing projects.

For updates on additional programming subscribe to the center’s newsletter at or visit the .

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Cheuse Center Events

| Thursday, Feb. 22, 1:30 pm | Fenwick Library


| Thursday, Feb. 29, 6:30 pm | Information


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