CHESTERTOWN, MD— Ned Sublette, the 2010-11 Patrick Henry Writing Fellow at Washington College, will explore the cultural heritage of New Orleans in a performance titled "Kiss You Down South: An Evening of Music and History” September 21 at 6:30 on the College campus. Combining musical performance and history in a coffee-house setting, the event will take place in Center Stage, an intimate space in Hodson Hall Commons. It will include a book signing at 6 p.m.; admission is free and open to the public.
Sublette will share stories of America’s most unique city, home to a vibrant cultural heritage that has endured in the face of crippling poverty, endemic racism, and rising floodwaters. New Orleans' history is, in many ways, best told through its music, a product of centuries of interaction between diverse groups: Africans, West Indians, Creoles, Native Americans, Cubans, Haitians, and European-Americans. Through that diversity, the city has birthed or nurtured many of America’s great musical traditions, including jazz, blues, gospel, zydeco, hip hop, funk, Cajun, and rhythm & blues.
Sublette is an internationally renowned musician and cultural historian who brings a special perspective to the study of early America. A native of Texas, he has spent most of his working life in New York City. He is the author of several well-received books, including The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans (2009) and The World that Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square (2008), both published by Lawrence Hill Books, and Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo (Chicago Review Press, 2004).
The Guardian (U.K.) has called his writing “astonishing work that explains much about our modern world,” and the Boston Globe has lauded The World That Made New Orleans as “an energetic and fascinating read … the best argument yet for why we need to save New Orleans.”
The Patrick Henry Writing Fellowship, provided by Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and supported by the Rose O’Neill Literary House (the College’s center for literature and creative writing), offers a yearlong residency to authors doing innovative work on America’s founding era and its legacy. It is permanently endowed as part of a $2.5 million challenge grant package that the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded through its nationwide “We the People” initiative.
Sublette will use his residence at Washington College to continue work on a history of the American “slave coast” and the vast but little-known black migrations that shaped American history and culture from the 18th century to the present. Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C.V. Starr Center, describes Sublette’s approach as “groundbreaking,” and explains that, “while several excellent monographs have chronicled the role of specific mid-Atlantic port cities in the oceangoing domestic slave trade, none have explored the region as a whole as a ‘slave coast,’ similar in character and function, if not in scale, to the West African coast.”
As part of the fellowship, Sublette and his wife, the writer Constance Ash, are living in a restored 1735 house in the heart of Chestertown's colonial historic district. Sublette will co-teach a course at Washington College in the spring.
He is a previous recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University. He is also a classically trained guitarist and a songwriter. His albums as composer and vocalist include Cowboy Rumba, Monsters from the Deep and the forthcoming Kiss You Down South. He has been a producer for Public Radio International’s Afropop Worldwide, co-founding that program’s scholarly Hip Deep series, and was co-founder of the record label Qbadisc, which distributed Cuban music in the United States.
About the C.V. Starr CenterThe C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience explores our nation’s history – and particularly the legacy of its Founding era – in innovative ways. Through educational programs, scholarship, and public outreach, and especially by supporting and fostering the art of written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between past and present, and between the academic world and the public at large. From its base in the circa-1746 Custom House along Chestertown’s colonial waterfront, the Center also serves as a portal onto a world of opportunities for Washington College students
photo credit: Constance Ash