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Black History Month Keynote Address: "Notes from the Cultural Autobiography of a Freedom Singer/Bernice Johnson Reagon/ Wednesday, Feb. 13Print this PageXML

Musician-Scholar Bernice Johnson Reagon to Deliver Black History Month Keynote Address

Bernice Johnson Reagon, a leading figure in the study, performance and renewal of the African-American traditions of music and activism, will deliver the keynote address in Bryn Mawr's celebration of Black History Month next Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in Thomas Great Hall. A reception and sales of Reagon's CDs will follow the lecture, which is free and open to the public.

"Notes from the Cultural Autobiography of a Freedom Singer" will draw on Reagon's extraordinary personal history of activism and education through musical performance and composition. Reagon became active in the Civil Rights Movement while a college student at Albany State College in Albany, Ga., from which she was expelled after participating in a demonstration for which she and others were jailed. She was a member of the original Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee's Freedom Singers formed in 1962 by SNCC field secretary Cordell H. Reagon and has been a major force in the preservation and expansion of a cappella music ever since.

Reagon has excelled in scholarship as well as performance and composition. She is a professor emerita of history at American University and curator emerita at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and she  served as the 2002-04 Cosby Chair of Fine Arts at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga.

Her deep knowledge of the African-American musical tradition has made Reagon the music consultant, composer, and performer of choice for film and video producers. Her credits include the award-winning Eyes on the Prize, the Emmy-winning We Shall Overcome, and the feature film Beloved.

In 1996, Reagon received the Isadora Duncan award for the score of the original ballet Rock, created by Alonso King, founder and artistic director of the San Francisco-based contemporary ballet company, LINES. In 2003, she created the music and libretto for the Robert Wilson production The Temptation of St. Anthony, which premiered in Germany and was also performed in Italy, Spain, England, and New York. Her pioneering work as a scholar, teacher, and artist has been recognized with the Heinz Award for the Arts and Humanities (2003), the Leeway National Award for Women in the Arts (2000), the Presidential Medal for contribution to public understanding of the Humanities (1995), and the MacArthur Fellowship (1989).

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Posted 2/7/2008 by Claudia Ginanni