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Jake Xerxes Fussell Album Release, Fri, Jan 30 at 5:30 pm

PoB-17-coverJoin us at the Center to celebrate the release of Jake Xerxes Fussell’s debut solo album from local record label Paradise of BachelorsJake will perform some selections from his self-titled album, produced by and featuring William Tyler. Acclaimed Durham guitarist Daniel Bachman will also play a special solo set for the occasion. Now a Durham resident, Fussell grew up in Columbus, GA.

As Jake explains it, “the Southern half of the Georgia-Alabama border follows the Chattahoochee River, which cleaves Columbus from its decidedly less reputable neighbor, Phenix City, Alabama. Georgia’s second city is the hometown of ‘Mother of the Blues’ Ma Rainey and novelist Carson McCullers, but it was local hillbilly duo Darby and Tarlton’s 1927 hit ‘Columbus Stockade Blues’ that first immortalized Columbus in popular culture. Back in their day, if you ended up in lockup in Columbus, chances are you did your dirtiest deeds across the river.”


Jake is the son of Fred C. Fussell, a folklorist, curator, and photographer who hails from Phenix City. Fred’s fieldwork took him (sometimes with Jake) across the Southeast documenting traditional vernacular culture, which included recording blues and old-time musicians with fellow folklorists George Mitchell and Art Rosenbaum, as well as collaborating with American Indian artists, which eventually led to Jake’s graduate research on Choctaw fiddlers.


As a teenager,Bachman Jake played and studied under elder musicians in the Chattahoochee Valley, including Piedmont blues legend Precious Bryant (“Georgia Buck”) and Alabama bluesman George Daniel (“Rabbit on a Log”). He later accompanied Etta Baker in North Carolina, studied with Will Scarlett and Steve Mann in Berkeley, earned a degree in Southern Studies from Oxford (Mississippi), recorded and toured with Rev. John Wilkins, and, last year, met up with acclaimed artist William Tyler to begin recording his first solo album. The album drops on January 27th, and we can’t wait to hear it. You can listen to a single of “Raggy Levy” here.

This lecture is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Jackie Robinson: A Game Apart, Sun, Feb 15 at 3:00 pm


Hutchins Lecture by Sophie White, Thurs, Feb 19 at 4:30 pm

sophiewhiteIn her lecture, “Beyond the Slave Narrative,” Sophie White showcases the judicial testimony of enslaved Africans in criminal trials in French colonial Louisiana. Drawing on her current research project, White locates the verbal and non-verbal stories which enslaved individuals, forced into a global African diaspora, sought somehow to narrate. Reading past the details of the criminal cases, and interspersing her analysis with excerpts from their testimonies, she focuses on individual slaves’s subjectivity as conveyed through their inflections and uses of imagery, their choice of words and their silences. This lecture will be held in the Kresge Foundation Room (039 Graham Memorial Hall).

Wild Frenchmen

Sophie White is Associate Professor of American Studies, Africana Studies, and History at the University of Notre Dame. She describes herself as an “historian of early America with an interdisciplinary focus on cultural encounters between Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans, and a commitment to Atlantic and global research perspectives.” Professor White is the author of Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians: Material Culture and Race in Colonial Louisiana (University of Pennsylvania Press, McNeil Center for Early American Studies series, 2012), which demonstrates that material culture–especially dress–was central to the elaboration of discourses about race in French colonial Louisiana. Her current book project, “Voices of the African Diaspora Within and Beyond the Atlantic World,” is centered on the analysis of an extraordinary body of testimony by enslaved Africans in colonial Louisiana and beyond. Both book projects were supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Sacred Spaces Art Reception, Thursday, February 5 at 5:30 pm

ASpencerLynchburg2013_53Please join us at the Center as we unveil our Spring 2015 art exhibit, Sacred Spaces: A Look Inside the Home of Harlem Renaissance Poet Anne Spencer.

These photographs by John M. Hall reveal the beautiful and unique home and garden of Anne Spencer in Lynchburg, Virginia. The house, which is registered as a Virginia Historic Landmark, served as a salon and southern outpost of the Harlem Renaissance, as the Spencers hosted literary luminaries such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, and many others. Spencer also served as the first librarian at the all-black Dunbar High School from 1923-1945. During this period, she helped establish the Lynchburg chapter of the NAACP, led a campaign to hire black teachers, and served on committees to improve the legal, social, and economic aspects of African Americans’ lives.


Anne Spencer’s biographer, Professor Emeritus J. Lee Greene, noted that while moving through her home, Spencer would often “recall a person, an incident, a memory, an object that… made the room seem sacred to her.” This exhibit celebrates the rich legacy of Anne Spencer, including her poetry, her activism, her family, and her home. In addition to a performance by local musicians from the Durham Symphony Orchestra, the reception will include remarks by Professor Greene, photographer John M. Hall, and Spencer’s granddaughter, Shaun Spencer-Hester, who currently serves as curator for the Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum. North Carolina poet Jeffery Beam will read a small selection from Spencer’s work.

This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Film Screening: Getting Back to Abnormal, Full Frame Theater, Wednesday, November 19 at 7:00 pm

Join us at the Full Frame Theater in Durham’s American Tobacco Campus for a provocative exploration of Southern race and politics on film, followed by a Q&A with Directors Paul Stekler and Andrew Kolker.

abnormalstillNew Orleans’ long history of political dysfunction and complicated racial dynamics gets a new lease on life when Stacy Head, a polarizing white woman, wins a seat on the city council after the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Four years later, she needs black votes to get reelected. But will her record of blunt racial talk doom her chances? GETTING BACK TO ABNORMAL follows the unlikely odd couple of Head and her irrepressible black political advisor, Barbara Lacen-Keller, as they try to navigate New Orleans’ treacherous political scene. With its cast of only-in-New-Orleans characters, Getting Back to Abnormal is a provocative and amusing look at race in America, set against the backdrop of the city’s rich culture. The film had its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival and was nationally broadcast on the PBS series POV in August 2014. You can view a behind-the-scenes discussion between the producers about portraying New Orleans on film here.

This event, which is free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by the Southern Oral History Program, the Southern Documentary Fund, and Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies.