Tom Dent congo square Lecture

The Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture provides a thoughtful, creative community outlet with an annual lecture and more, all relating to issues of culture and society.

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 Tom Dent Congo Square lectures are named in his honor.

Since 1987, the Tom Dent lectures have 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, Black Masking Indian traditions and much more.

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. In 2012, the Foundation was extremely honored to host poet, scholar, and activist, Amiri Baraka.

In the past, the Tom Dent Congo Square Lectures also included the Tom Dent Congo Square Symposium. 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.