The Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University

Author Krin Gabbard sets aside the myth-making around bassist Charles Mingus to argue that he created a unique language of emotions—and not just in music. After exploring the most important events in Mingus’s life, Gabbard’s book takes a careful look at Mingus as a writer as well as a composer and musician. Classically trained and of mixed race, he was an outspoken innovator on his instrument as well as a bandleader, composer, producer, and record-label owner. His autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, shaped the image of Mingus as a wild man, an idiosyncratic musical genius...

Jean-Christophe Cloutier’s talk will uncover the invisible photographic history behind the writing of one of Ralph Ellison’s most influential essays, “Harlem Is Nowhere” (1948). Ellison’s piece was initially crafted as a photo-essay to be accompanied by pictures taken by legendary photographer, writer, and director, Gordon Parks. In collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago and the Gordon Parks Foundation, Cloutier’s research has now finally unearthed the 1948 photographs that were taken for this project. He argues that Parks’ images were so influential that Ellison fashioned around...

"Albert Murray—An American Original: Novelist, Essayist, Thinker"

A One-Day Symposium and Jazz Performance at Columbia University

Saturday, February 13, 2016

In honor of the Albert Murray Centennial, this symposium will elaborate the Alabama-born Harlemite’s distinctive contribution to American thought and letters. From vernacular to fine art, downhome particulars to cosmopolitan and universal implications, Murray swings aesthetic statement in omni-American hues, and confronts entropy with excellence and epic affirmation despite the blues of the human condition. Murray’s blues idiom hero stomps the blues through elegance and eloquence, extending communal and national ideals. The topics for the symposium include: the influences on Murray’s work; his sui generis literary mastery; how and why he counter-stated “the folklore of white supremacy and the fakelore of black pathology”; and the profound cultural and philosophical reverberations of Murray's oeuvre. University of Pennsylvania professor Herman Beavers will deliver the Keynote Speech, and will be joined by other eminent writers and scholars who investigate Murray’s work with the multi-disciplinary depth it warrants. Jazz was central to Murray’s aesthetic, so the evening jazz performance by the Michael Carvin Experience will round out this celebration of the mind and style of this all-purpose, all-American 20th century intellectual. 


Albert Murray and Romare Bearden

Full Symposium Schedule

*This event is free and open to the public, but you must RSVP to *



Lectures and Panels on Albert Murray

East Gallery, Buell Hall


8:45am – 9:15am: Breakfast and Greetings

9:15 am – 9:20am: Welcome by Greg Thomas

9:20am – 9:30am: Opening Remarks by Robert O’Meally

9:30am – 9:50am: Jacquelynne Modeste (CUNY)

“Albert Murray: Geographies of a Mind”

9:50am – 10:10am: Walton Muyumba (Indiana University Bloomington)

“Context and Pragmatism: Albert Murray's Literary Philosophy”

10:10am – 10:30am: Lauren Walsh (The New School)

“Murray’s Elaboration and Refinement of Thomas Mann”

10:30am – 10:50am: Ayana Mathis (Iowa Writers’ Workshop)

“The Also and Also of Albert Murray”

10:50am – 11:10am: Coffee Break

11:10am – 12:00pm: Panel of Morning Presenters

12:00pm – 1:00pm: Lunch Break

1:00pm – 1:20pm: Aryeh Tepper (Ben-Gurion University, Sede-Boqer Campus)

 "Extending the 'Telling Effect': A Political-Philosophical Elaboration of 'Cosmos Murray'"

1:20pm – 1:40pm: Greg Thomas (Independent Scholar)

“The Ralph Ellison-Albert Murray Continuum”

1:40 pm – 2:00pm: Roberta S. Maguire (University of Wisconsin-Oskhosh)

“Fighting Fakelores and Folklores: Albert Murray's Use of Syncopated Prose"

2:00pm – 2:20pm: Paul Devlin (US Merchant Marine Academy)

“The Form and Feeling of Albert Murray's Fiction: Jazz and the Logic and Contours of the Picaresque"

2:20pm – 2:40pm: Joel Dinerstein (Tulane University)

“Albert Murray’s Existential Cool: Style, Swing, Ritual, Affirmation”

2:40pm – 3:30pm: Panel of Afternoon Presenters

3:30pm – 3:50pm: Coffee Break

3:50pm – 4:00pm: Farah Jasmine Griffin (Columbia University)

Introduction for Keynote Speaker Herman Beavers

4:00pm – 4:30pm: Herman Beavers (University of Pennsylvania)

“Down into the Maelstrom Swinging: Albert Murray’s Fakebook of the Chaotic Imagination”

4:30pm – 5:00pm: Question & Answer Session

5:00pm – 5:20pm: Closing Remarks


Jazz Performance

Low Library Faculty Room


7:00pm – 7:10pm: Opening Remarks by Greg Thomas

7:10pm – 7:20pm: Rhonda Hamilton, WBGO Introduction of the Performers

7:20pm – 8:40pm: Performance by the Michael Carvin Experience


The Center for Jazz Studies wishes to thank the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation for supporting our public programming and educational activities.