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Lecture: Can’t Stand Still w/ musician Michael K. Johnson
October 22, 2019 @ 5:00pm
An African American musician and author from White Sulphur Springs who became an influencer in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s is the subject of the next Doig Center lecture set for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, in the Procrastinator Theater.
Michael K. Johnson, a professor of English from the University of Maine at Farmington, will deliver the free lecture based on his recently published book “Can’t Stand Still.” The new biography is about Taylor Gordon, whom Johnson calls a “one of the most significant African-American male vocalists in America, if also one of the least recognized.”
Johnson said that with musical partner J. Rosamond Johnson, Gordon was a “crucially important figure in popularizing African American spirituals as an art form, giving many listeners their first experience of black spirituals.”
Johnson said that prior to moving to New York City, Gordon worked in the White Sulphur Springs brothels as an errand boy, traveled the country in circus magnate John Ringling’s private railway car, performed on vaudeville stages from New York to Vancouver to Los Angeles, performed for royalty in England, and became a celebrated author with the bestselling 1929 autobiography “Born to Be.” He also had a long struggle with mental illness. However, despite his fame at the time, Gordon has nearly been lost to history, Johnson said.
“(Gordon) adds depth to the history of the Harlem Renaissance and makes him one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century,” Johnson said.
Johnson is also the author of “Black Masculinity and the Frontier Myth in American Literature” and “Hoo-Doo Cowboys and Bronze Buckaroos: Conceptions of the African American West.” He will sign books following his lecture.
For more information, go to http://www.montana.edu/doig/.