People’s History Series Lecture to Explore Black Wilmington Culture of the Early 20th Century

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

“A People's History of Wilmington” virtual discussion series concludes April 22 with the presentation of “Voices from the Ashes: Black Wilmington Culture of the Early 20th Century.”

Richard Yarborough, a distinguished professor of African American literature at UCLA and a great-nephew of the opera singer Caterina Jarboro, is the keynote speaker. Jarboro, who was born in Wilmington in 1898, was the first female singer to break the color barrier in American opera, 22 years before African American contralto Marian Anderson’s debut at the Metropolitan Opera.

UNCW associate professor Helena Spencer will facilitate the discussion and share some of her research on the legendary singer.

“What Dr. Yarborough has looked into and will be discussing is at the heart of our whole ambition here—recovering and shining light on the Black history of Wilmington, which goes back centuries, and which despite some path-breaking research remains obscure,” said award-winning writer John Jeremiah Sullivan and Third Person co-founder.”

“A People’s History” is a series of virtual talks and discussions curated by the Third Person Project and sponsored by the Office of Community Engagement and Applied Learning and in coordination with the Departments of History and English. Its goal is to shine the light on little-known figures in Wilmington’s Black cultural past.

“Of all cities in America that can boast of a rich Black history, Wilmington is among the places where the soil is deepest. Very little scholarly work has been done on that history, relatively speaking, especially when you put it up against the importance of this city in American history more largely,” said Sullivan. “The horror of 1898 soaks up the attention and at the same time casts a sort of pall over the rest. As a result, an enormous number of documents and stories wait to be recovered and studied. Our aim is to make that process as collaborative as possible.”

The free presentation begins at 6:30 p.m. and is open to all. Additional details and registration information may be found here.

--Venita Jenkins