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Sept. 5 University Forum to Feature Concert, Lecture with James McBride and the “Good Lord Bird” Band

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James McBride

The University of Southern Mississippi’s 2017-18 University Forum season sopener will be a one-of-a-kind concert and lecture, when renowned author and composer James McBride and the Good Lord Bird Band take the stage Tuesday, Sept. 5 at Bennett Auditorium on the Hattiesburg campus. The event, which begins at 6:30 p.m., is free and open to the public.

McBride is the 2013 National Book Award winner for The Good Lord Bird; and the American Music Festival’s Stephen Sondheim Award and American Arts and Letters’ Richard Rodgers Award for his compositions. His presentation is titled “The Good Lord Bird: Faith and American Slavery.”

The Good Lord Bird is the story of a young boy, Henry Shackleford, who was born into slavery and joins abolitionist John Brown’s anti-slavery movement, all the while dressing as a girl to avoid capture and likely death. His journey takes him to Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, the attempted slave revolt that was a key event in the lead-up to the Civil War. 

McBride’s talk will examine America’s slavery past and continuing struggles with racism, while the Good Lord Bird Band will present music from the time period serving as the backdrop for the novel.

“This promises to be a truly remarkable event that will bring together literature, history, and music,” said Dr. Andrew Haley, director of University Forum and an associate professor of history at USM.  

McBride’s memoir, The Color of Water, spent two years on The New York Times bestseller. Other popular works by McBride include Song Yet Sung and Kill ‘Em and Leave, the latter a James Brown biography. When presented the 2015 National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama, he was applauded for “humanizing the complexities of discussing race in America” and for “his moving stories of love” that “display the character of the American family.”

Presented by the Southern Miss Honors College, University Forum is free and open to the public. University Forum will also be available for viewing at the Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach in Hardy Hall, room 316 via Interactive Video Network (IVN). For more information, email