Evanston Public Library to launch ’11 Months of African American History’


Sean Hong/Daily Senior Staffer

The Evanston Public Library will launch a new program titled “11 Months of African American History” next month. The library will feature at least one African American-themed event every month through January 2015.

Cassie Wassink, Reporter

The Evanston Public Library will kick off a series in early March commemorating African American life in the 20th century.

“11 Months of African American History,” which will include lectures from Northwestern faculty, is a program based around a 10-play series called the “American Century Cycle” by August Wilson. These plays depict African American history decade by decade. Starting March 10, there will be one play each month through January 2015.

Lesley Williams, the library’s head of adult services, said condensing the celebration of African American history into a single month has always frustrated her.

Williams mentioned Carter G. Woodson, who founded Negro History Week in 1926. She said the week’s original intent was to highlight the lack of recognition for African American history.

“I think he would be pretty disappointed if he was around now and saw how we connect everything with African American history in February instead of spreading it throughout the year,” Williams said.

Library director Karen Danczak Lyons hopes this extended program will allow more people to take advantage of the events.

“I’m hoping because there are more options for people to participate in a variety of times that we will have a new audience,” she said.

Specifically, Danczak Lyons mentioned families and her hope that this program would allow for their increased participation.

The American Century Cycle plays will be enacted through readings and discussion, instead of formal performances, to allow for greater engagement and interaction. Discussions will be led by prominent Chicago-area and Broadway actors and directors who have experience with these plays, including Ron OJ Parson, who is currently directing plays for the Court Theatre in Chicago, and Jacqueline Williams, a Chicago-based actor.

Other highlights of the program include a lecture on African American women portrayal and misrepresentation in “The Help,” as well as the annual Evanston Northwestern Humanities Lecture Series. 

The Humanities Lecture Series is cosponsored by the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities and EPL. Beverly Zeldin-Palmer, Kaplan’s department assistant, said the abundance of African American history and culture research done at Northwestern makes the lectures enriching experiences.

In October, Michelle Wright began the series by speaking about the meaning of blackness. Two more lectures will occur during the “11 Months African American History” celebration. The next one, on March 13, is titled “In the Arms of the Negress.”

Zeldin-Palmer said Wright’s lecture was one of the most successful in the program’s history.

“The African American community and the scholarly community in general are very interested in what’s going on with black culture at Northwestern and at large,” Zeldin-Palmer said. “We have some of the top humanities faculty in the country, we want to share that with the community.”

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