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Africana Studies Program at W&L to Host Actor and Author Charles Reese

The Africana Studies Program of Washington and Lee University will host actor, author and intellectual Charles Reese on Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Johnson Theater of the Lenfest Center for the Performing Arts.

Reese will engage his audience in a public conversation called, “James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire.” He established this program in 2014 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Baldwin’s birth. The event is free and open to the public.

James Baldwin was a major literary figure and civil rights activist who wrote numerous books, essays, plays and stories. He is the author of “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “Notes of a Native Son,” “The Fire Next Time” and “Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone.”

A talented writer and passionate advocate of equality during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, Baldwin came of age as a black, gay youth in Harlem, New York.

Reese’s interest in Baldwin began when he had a chance encounter with the author on the Clark-Atlanta University campus during the early 1980s. Reese, then a freshman at Morehouse College, noticed a familiar professor walking along with a man he did not know. As they approached the man looked at Reese and said, “You have eyes like mine.” Reese thanked him, and hours later realized that the man was James Baldwin.

This brief encounter inspired him to learn much more about Baldwin and to read his works. Later Reese played James Baldwin in a critically acclaimed Broadway play, “James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire” by Howard B. Simon.

More recently, Reese has published “James Baldwin: Artist as Activist and the Baldwin/Kennedy Secret Summit of 1963” in “James Baldwin: Challenging Authors” (edited by A. Scott Henderson and P.L. Thomas).

Baldwin’s performance is sponsored by the Africana Studies Program, the History Department, the University Lectures Fund and the LGBTQ Resource Center.