BookHampton welcomed author and NYU professor Pamela Newkirk to our Winter Lecture Series this past Saturday. Newkirk's topic, “Creating History through Letters: A Journey Across Three Centuries” was based in part on her book Letters from Black America (Beacon Press), a multi-dimensional portrait of Black life through letters.
Newkirk read from a selection of letters included in her book, focusing on letters of love sent between husbands and wives and family members over the last 300 years. "Black romantic life is under-represented," said Newkirk. It was especially dangerous for slaves to send letters to their loved ones, who may or may not ever receive them. Great pains were taken to spirit letters across plantations and state lines, as writing letters was an illegal act. A slave caught writing a letter could lose the hand that wrote it. Many letters from slaves were later found among items in their masters' estates — letters that never made it off of the land they worked.
One especially touching letter was from W.E.B. DuBois to his daughter Yolanda in 1914. Fourteen-year-old Yolanda was away from home at a British boarding school, and DuBois' letter had exhortations of excellence that all parents recognize, with special, sensitive advice about being “different” so far from home.
Newkirk finished with a Valentine's Day letter dated 1957 from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Coretta Scott King, and answered questions from the audience.
This Saturday, February 19 at a special time — 4:00pm — actor and great-book lover Alec Baldwin joins us to read from a favorite classic: Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.
This event is especially intended to introduce Mark Twain to young readers and children will be given preferred seating. (Seating is on a first-come basis.)