Speaking to the World
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New York Times Best-Selling Author & Musician
James McBride is an author, musician and screenwriter. His landmark memoir, The Color of Water, rested on the New York Times bestseller list for two years and explored McBride’s search for identity as the son of a white, Jewish woman and a black man. It is considered an American classic and is read in schools and universities across the United States. His debut novel, Miracle at St. Anna was translated into a major motion picture, directed by American film icon Spike Lee. It was released by Disney/Touchstone in September 2008. James wrote the script for Miracle at St. Anna and co-wrote Spike Lee's 2012 Red Hook Summer. His novel, Song Yet Sung, was released in paperback in January 2009. His novel The Good Lord Bird, about American revolutionary John Brown, is the winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction and has been adapted by Ethan Hawke and Jason Blum into a Showtime series bearing the same name. Read More >
McBride’s latest novel Deacon King Kong tells the story of a 1969 shooting in Brooklyn and the strange intersections of the lives of the characters involved in the shooting. Early reviews rave “deeply felt, beautifully written, and profoundly humane” (New York Times Book Review) and “this generous, achingly funny novel will delight and move readers” (Publishers Weekly starred review).
James is also a former staff writer for The Boston Globe, People Magazine and The Washington Post. His work has appeared in Essence, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. His April, 2007 National Geographic story entitled “Hip Hop Planet” is considered a respected treatise on African American music and culture.
James toured as a saxophonist sideman with jazz legend Jimmy Scott, among others. He has also written songs (music and lyrics) for Anita Baker, Grover Washington Jr., Purafe, Gary Burton, and even for the PBS television character 'Barney.' He did not write the 'I Love You' song for Barney but wishes he did. He received the Stephen Sondheim Award and the Richard Rodgers Foundation Horizon Award for his musical 'Bo-Bos' co-written with playwright Ed Shockley. His 2003 “Riffin’ and Pontificatin’” Musical Tour was captured in a nationally televised Comcast documentary. He has been featured on national radio and television in America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. He often does his readings accompanied by a band.
James is a native New Yorker and a graduate of New York City public schools. He studied composition at The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and received his Masters in Journalism from Columbia University in New York at age 22. He holds several honorary doctorates and is currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.
In the fall of 2016, President Barack Obama awarded McBride the 2015 National Humanities Medal "for humanizing the complexities of discussing race in America. Through writings about his own uniquely American story, and his works of fiction informed by our shared history, his moving stories of love display the character of the American family." Read Less ^
The Good Lord Bird
The Story of James McBride
James McBride Presentation
That’s the America I Live in
This is a Nation of Immigrants
The Truth is in the Music
In a brand-new program, James McBride shares the powerful story of John Brown, a white American abolitionist who in 1859—along with 19 others—attacked the largest arsenal of weapons in America, ultimately prompting the Civil War by terrorizing the South and galvanizing the abolitionists in the North. Read More >
In this presentation, which is based around his National Book Award winning novel, The Good Lord Bird, McBride shares the story of John Brown, using gospel and spiritual music of the time to frame his life and how it is presented in the book. Audiences will feel inspired and uplifted by the amazing music, the real-life story of a true American hero, and the powerful words of one of our greatest public speakers. Read Less ^
In this touching keynote speech, diversity speaker James McBride discusses the importance of learning to forgive one’s past mistakes in order to press forward towards success, and the importance of failure as a successful tool for learning. McBride stresses that it is never too late to change. He uses examples from his own life and the lives of those he’s come across in his wide experience to encourage young people to embrace their history and identity, and appreciate the differences of those around them. Read More >
Who are you? A human? A student? An American citizen? You can be all of those things and more, but what part of those things is the most important? McBride uses his experience of having grown up in an ethnically mixed environment to teach audiences to be kind, be a learner, and be a self starter. Read Less ^
In this innovative program, best-selling author and professional musician James McBride shares how the basic principles of jazz—including being willing to improvise, working as a team, being creative, following your instincts, and thinking outside of the box—can be applied to the world of business for lasting results. He peppers his talk with funny and intriguing anecdotes, while illustrating his points with toe-tapping numbers performed along with a full band of career jazz artists.
A “musical” lecture focusing on the importance of the liberal arts as learning tools for life.
"As you very, very accurately predicted it was an amazing success. We had about 500 people and James and the band were incredible. I have spent most of today talking to people who just had to tell me what a fantastic time they had. Now, let me be honest. I am not ready to produce concerts. Not surprisingly, it is much more difficult to bring in six guests than one and I am still a little amazed that it all went so well."
"He was wonderful! It was such a pleasure to meet him. We had about 200 in attendance and attendees had wonderful things to say about the evening. In the midst of the pandemic, it was refreshing to sit quietly, relax and enjoy an insightful, stimulating discussion. Well done! It was great! Thank you for your help in arranging such a nice event."
"The event went wonderfully! James was lovely: provocative, insightful, funny. We had a full house—and they were entranced. He was great with the students as well, and had good conversations with donors and professors at our dinner reception. People were excited to talk with him"
"Our students absolutely loved hearing from and talking to Mr. McBride! His story, his demeanor, and his advice (about all things great and small) resonated profoundly with our guys. There's already talk of wanting him back, maybe with his band this time."
"Just a quick note to say how fantastic James was. Everyone – students, faculty, deans – was impressed. Thanks again…the logistics were done very well, too!"
"James was amazing. Completely charmed and entertained the audience. The group was fabulous and the format worked well. The program got a standing ovation—it doesn't get much better than that. At the book signing, he was gracious and thoughtful with the audience, and stayed a long time. What a talented, lovely man. I would have him back at any time."
"Fabulous. James McBride was at the top of his game. He wowed them in Flint! His visit was the centerpiece of our month long community read project, and it couldn't have been better received by this community."
"The James McBride visit is being hailed as one of the best events we have held. The Q & A went well. His responses were real, funny and character-based. It's the only time I know of where the students gave a standing ovation in the middle of the concert, as well as, at the end. Those couple of hours did more to move our campus thought forward in reference to diversity issues than several other activities combined over the last couple of years."
"Mr. McBride is the talk of Falmouth! Everyone from students to seniors who heard him speak yesterday is telling us what a wonderful experience it was to meet the author of the book that the whole town is reading. Mr. McBride is entertaining, provocative and a great storyteller."
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