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Community Invited to RWU Events Celebrating 75th Anniversary of 'Their Eyes Were Watching God'

Free event series focuses on author Zora Neale Hurston’s novel with keynote address from African studies expert Deborah G. Plant

As part of a series of events celebrating the 75th anniversary of folklorist Zora Neale Hurston’s contemporary classic, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” Roger Williams University will host the 12th Annual Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Lecture on Wednesday, Feb. 29, and an accompanying library exhibition on display through March 8.

The keynote address – “Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Meditation on Life” – will be presented by Deborah G. Plant, chair and associate professor of Africana studies at the University of South Florida. The presentation, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 3 p.m. in Room G01 in Global Heritage Hall on RWU’s Bristol campus.

Dr. Plant, who earned her Ph.D. in English at the University of Nebraska, is an expert in Africana literature and African diaspora cultural studies. The author of “Every Tub Must Sit On Its Own Bottom: The Philosophy and Politics of Zora Neale Hurston” and “Zora Neale Hurston: A Biography of the Spirit,” Plant has lectured and written extensively on the influence of Hurston’s works on African-American literature.

Highlights of the accompanying library exhibit include first editions of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and other works; facsimiles of photographs of and written records by Hurston; illustrations by Jerry Pinkney from “Their Eyes Were Watching God;” and a collection of hoodoo artifacts.

The exhibit will be displayed in the RWU Main Library through March 8, and members of the public are welcome to view it during the library’s regular operating hours – Monday to Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The annual Birss Memorial Lecture Series at Roger Williams University provides a unique opportunity to study a single text in depth and to investigate why these significant works remain relevant for modern readers. Each year, the University celebrates a text with a prominent anniversary – recent selections have included Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22;” Elie Wiesel’s “Night;” and Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

For more information on the Birss Memorial Lecture series, which is sponsored by the Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Lecture Fund, contact James Tackach, professor of English at Roger Williams, at (401) 254-3234.

Check out photos from the exhibit and more at: