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November 20, 2005

Please join us for a very special afternoon with Howard Dodson, Chief of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; David Blight, Professor of History and Director, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University; Heather Williams, Assistant Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Charles Turner, award winning Broadway actor; Novella Nelson, singer and actress; and David Burnett, violinist and head of Harlem School of the Arts, for readings, poetry, music and conversation exploring the close relationship between literacy and freedom. Opening with a reading of excerpts from Frederick Douglass's classic American slave narrative from the mid-1800s, then turning back the clock to visit New York City during the early colonial and national era, we will consider the influences of literacy and literature on enslaved and free blacks.

Presented in collaboration with the New-York Historical Society and JPMorganChase.

Howard Dodson has served as the Chief of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library since 1984. A specialist in African American history as well as a noted lecturer and consultant, Mr. Dodson has curated exhibitions, produced humanities and performing arts programs and developed the Schomburg Center into the premier public research library in the world devoted to documenting the global black experience.

David Blight is Professor of History and Director of Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. He has participated closely in the discovery and bringing to light of two new slave narratives in 2004 and is now editing the forthcoming book, Rowing to Freedom: The Emancipation of John Washington and Wallace Turnage.

Heather A. Williams is a former attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice and the New York State Attorney General's Office. She is assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her book, Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom was published in March 2005.

Charles Turner has performed major roles on and off Broadway. Most recently he stood in for James Earle Jones in the Broadway production of On Golden Pond co-starring with Leslie Uggams. As a director, he staged Ceremonies in Dark Old Men with Denzel Washington. His television appearances include "Law & Order" and "Dave Chappelle Show."

Novella Nelson, singer and actress, has sung at clubs such as Reno Sweeney and The Hungry I, as well as at Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall. Among her Broadway credits, she created the role of Aunt Missy in the original production of Purlie, and appeared in Having our Say. Her films include Antwone Fisher, Birth, and the forthcoming Stephanie Daley and Griffin and Phoenix.

David Burnett is the head of the string department at Harlem School of the Arts. He is a violinist/teacher and also has a residency with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.