"The Story of An American Masterpiece" is a public lecture and conversation based on Pulitzer Prize-winning critic SALAMISHAH TILLET'S life-changing experiences reading and then returning again and again to Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Color Purple and its adaptations at crucial points in her life. Traversing cultural criticism, memoir and biography, Tillet's book, In Search of The Color Purple: The Story of An American Masterpiece follows her as she recovers from sexual assault by finding herself in Walker's most beloved characters, Celie, Shug and Sophia. In this healing journey, she comes across others, including actress Oprah Winfrey, activist Gloria Steinem, artist Mickalene Thomas and even Walker herself, who share their own stories of being inspired by Celie's voice and vision of justice as well.
Tillet will read from her book. Following the reading, Tillet will discuss the work with JAMES GOODMAN, a professor of history and creative writing at Rutgers University. A Q&A session will follow the conversation.
Salamishah Tillet is a curator, activist and the 2022 recipient of the Pulitzer prize in criticism. She is the Henry Rutgers professor of Africana Studies and Creative Writing at Rutgers University–Newark and a contributing critic-at-large for The New York Times. Her books are Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post–Civil Rights Imagination (2012) and In Search of The Color Purple: The Story of an American Masterpiece (2021). Tillet is the executive director of Express Newark, a center for socially engaged art and design at Rutgers, and also the cofounder, along with her sister Scheherazade Tillet, of A Long Walk Home, a nonprofit that empowers young people to use art to end violence against all girls and women. In 2021, she co-hosted the Webby award-winning podcast, “Because of Anita,” a thirty-year retrospective of the impact of Anita Hill’s testimony. Tillet is currently co-curating “Pulling Together,” the first public art exhibit on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and completing a book on the civil rights musician Nina Simone.
James Goodman is the Pulitzer Prize-nominated author of But Where Is the Lamb? Imagining the Story of Abraham and Isaac, Blackout and Stories of Scottsboro. He has received fellowships and awards from NYU, Princeton, Rutgers and the Guggenheim Foundation. He is the US editor of the journal Rethinking History and is a professor at Rutgers University, where he teaches history and creative writing. He lives in New York.
This evening honors the late Robert U. Redpath, a distinguished former trustee of the Adult School, in whose memory a fund has been established to provide an annual program highlighting his interest in communications and language. This presentation is part of the SOMAS 90th Anniversary series "From Injustice to Insurrection."