January 17, 2020

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU Alumna Talks “Native Son” Jan. 30

Source: Temple University

VALDOSTA — International scholar and Valdosta State University alumna Joyce Ann Joyce will discuss Richard Wright’s seminal novel “Native Son” and its most recent film adaptation at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30, in the Odum Library Auditorium. This event is free of charge and open to the public.

“This is an early celebration of Black History Month,” which kicks off on Feb. 1 and continues through Feb. 29, shared Deborah Davis, director of VSU Archives and Special Collections.

A professor of English at Temple University in Pennsylvania, Joyce is an award-winning expert in African-American literary criticism and African-American poetry and fiction. In 2008 she was a keynote speaker at the International Centennial Celebration of Richard Wright’s Birthday, hosted by the American Embassy in Paris, and at Richard Wright 100, an international conference held at the Universidade da Beira Interior in Coviha, Portugal. She has published numerous books, articles, conference papers, and more on Wright and other black writers. Her papers are housed in VSU’s Odum Library.

Wright’s novel, “Native Son,” was originally published in March 1940. It tells the story of 20-year-old Bigger Thomas, a black youth living in utter poverty in a poor area of Chicago in the 1930s.

“Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail,” according to a book synopsis on Amazon. “It could have been for assault or petty larceny. By chance it was for murder and rape. ‘Native Son’ tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic.

“… Richard Right’s powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.” 

Following Joyce’s presentation, attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions, enjoy refreshments, and tour two exhibits — The Eichberger Collection of East African Art in the first floor north lobby and the Lynching of Mary Turner in Archives and Special Collections — on display in Odum Library.

Joyce was born in Valdosta. She graduated from Valdosta State with a Bachelor of Arts in English during the last year of segregation in the city. She was the first black recipient of the university’s highest honor, the Annie Powe Hopper Award.

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