Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture Series

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Tom Dent, for whom the lecture series is named, was an author, historian and both a board member and an executive director of the Jazz & Heritage Foundation. Photo courtesy of: Thomas C. Dent Papers, Amistad Research Center at Tulane

Tom Dent, for whom the lecture series is named, was an author, historian and both a board member and an executive director of the Jazz & Heritage Foundation. Photo courtesy of: Thomas C. Dent Papers, Amistad Research Center at Tulane

For artists and thinkers to engage in meaningful dialogue on issues of culture and commerce -- the history of New Orleans music and the ways its artists have responded to the world around them.

Tom Dent (1931-1998) was a jazz scholar, playwright, oral historian, journalist and cultural activist. He was also an early board member of the Jazz & Heritage Foundation, and served as executive director from 1987 to 1990.

During his tenure he launched the Congo Square Lecture Series as a means to engage artists and thinkers in an intellectual dialogue on issues of culture and commerce. Since its beginnings, the series has delved into the history of New Orleans music and the ways its artists have responded to the world around them.

The series is named in his honor.

Since 1987, the series has presented an impressive range of musicians, artists and authors. Some of these include: Abbey Lincoln, Randy Weston, A.B. Spellman, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Elizabeth Catlett, Vertamae Smart-Grovenor, Olu Dara with Niyi Osundare and Marku Ribas.

There have been special presentations on the cultural connections between New Orleans and Brazil, on the role of creoles in the development of early jazz, the evolution of the jazz funeral tradition and much more.

More recently, the series has presented readings by New Orleans authors, including Tom Sancton and Joshua Clark, and musicians such as Dr. Michael White. Jazz scholar Ashley Kahn and “Urban Blues” author Charles Keil also have been recent presenters.

Currently, the Tom Dent Congo Square Series is comprised of two annual events:

  • The Tom Dent Congo Square Symposium, held the fourth Saturday in March. The event has featured top scholars of African culture and how it relates to the New World, such as Robert Farris Thompson of Yale University and the author Ned Sublette. The symposium coincides with one of the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s cultural events, the Congo Square Rhythms Festival, which is held the second Sunday of November at the site of Congo Square, in New Orleans’ Armstrong Park. For details about the March 2012 event, see www.CongoSquareTalks.com.
  • The Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture, held the fourth Thursday of November. The most recent speaker in this series was the author, poet and activist Amiri Baraka.

For details on upcoming events in the Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture Series, please see our event calendar.

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