The Life and Lore of Sterling A. Brown: Celebrating Poetry, Prose, and Music

A virtual symposium at Williams College, October 19-21, 2022

  • Exhibition Opening (On-site, in person) in Sawyer Library, Schow and Chapin Galleries, 5:30-6:30pm.

  • 5:00-5:30

    • Opening Remarks: Lisa Conathan
    • Welcome & Remarks: Sterling A. Brown Family members
    • Poetry reading: LeBaron Thornton


    • "Looking South to a Very Old Place," Conversation with Edgar Tidwell and Mark Sanders


    • Keynote: Dr. Imani Perry & Dr. Paula Giddings, moderated by Amber Zu-Bolton
  • 11:00-11:30

    • Welcome & Remarks: Member of the Williams Black Alumni Network
    • "Ma Rainey by Sterling Brown," Music performance by Avery Sharpe


    • "The Impact of Sterling Brown's Poetry, Cricicism, and Pedagogy," Panel presentation featureing Lauri Scheyer, James Smethurst, Tony Bolden, and Steven Tracy.


    • "Sterling A. Brown: The Federal Writers' Project and the Black Literary Tradition," Panel presentation featuring Amber Zu-Bolton, Joanne Gabbin, and Phil Richards.


    • "In the Tradition: Black Artists and Writers Responding to the Work of SAB," Panel presentation featuring Naomi Jackson, Airea Dee Matthews, and Pamela Council


    • "Where Music and Dancing Are Concerned," Music performances by Michael Awkward and Steven Tracy. Jason Lucas and members of WBAN read excerpts from "Brown, Sterling," a play by Vantile E. Whitfield.


    • Closing Remarks: Jes Neal
    • Closing Performance: Cornelius Eady Trio
  • May 1, 2022 marks the 121st birthday of Sterling A. Brown. Join us in remembrance and celebration with an audio mix curated by DJ Kailyn Hype. While you're listening, consider submitting a proposal for the symposium to be held October 20-22.

  • Prof. Sterling A. Brown (‘22) was a scholar, educator, poet, critic, and jazz and blues aficionado. Considered the “Dean of African-American Literature,” Sterling A. Brown was foundational in framing the African-American literary tradition, its advancement as a field of scholarly study, and for creating and inspiring discourse around folklore as a Black aesthetic. This symposium is two-fold, as it will mark the much anticipated opening of the Sterling A. Brown papers as well as celebrate his centennial graduation from Williams College. 

    Williams College invites proposals for papers to be presented at the 2022 Symposium celebrating the life and works of Sterling A. Brown in Williamstown, Massachusetts, October 20-22, 2022. The symposium will engage local communities,  writers,  scholars, and performing artists for a multidisciplinary conversation on Sterling A. Brown and African-American cultural production. 

    Prospective panelists are asked to propose an academic or performing arts panel with two to four sessions. Individual presentations are welcomed and will be curated into appropriate panels by the conference committee. Presentations on SABs poetry, prose, teaching career, organizational involvement are welcomed. We also invite proposals that are on the topic of SABs contributions and uses of folklore, jazz and blues to examine, critique, and craft a counter history to the American literary and social experience of African-Americans are especially encouraged. 

    To submit a proposal, please complete the google form found here. Please be sure to include the following submission requirements:

    • Proposal title
    • Submission format 
    • First and last names, organizational affiliations (if applicable), and email addresses for all authors / presenters
    • Abstract (50 words max)
    • Proposal (250-500 words)
    • Five keywords for your proposal

    For questions, please email the conference planner, Jes Neal @ [email protected]

Signature artwork by Naderson Saint-Pierre.