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“It has been a privilege to serve as an ambassador for North Carolina’s rich literary history, advocating for our writers, who set such a fine example of how productive communities can be when the people within support each other.” —Margaret D. Bauer

inspires empathy by allowing readers to see inside the consciousness of a stranger, showing us what it is like to be another, so that we recognize what we have in common and better understand our differences. Now, perhaps more than any other period of my lifetime, expanding the ability to empathize through compelling stories featuring various “others” is crucial, as is, of course, developing critical thinking skills, another of the reasons Humanities courses are so crucial. My first Southern literature class this semester took place the morning after Silent Sam was taken down here in Chapel Hill. Through the literature of the 1890s South, a period when many such memorials went up, my students have gained a broader understanding of the history behind the issue of memorializing the Confederacy than they might have brought with them to college – more informed, perhaps, than they will hear around the holiday table next month. Knowledge can be discomforting, I know, being from the Deep South myself, but is ignorance bliss, I ask them, or ultimately stultifying? They, and their friends in other Humanities courses are, I hope, learning to think beyond divisive dichotomies of red or blue, black or white. Just this week, with funding from the North Carolina Arts Council, the Paul Green Foundation, and the ECU English Department, EbzB Productions’

ABOVE Margaret Bauer with playwright Ian Finley (center);

David Zum Brunnen, who played Paul Green; J. Mardrice Henderson, who played Richard Wright; and director Serena Ebhardt, following the performance of Native at the Whirligig Theatre, Greenville, NC, 2 Oct. 2018

play Native, written by Research Triangle High School drama teacher Ian Finley, was performed in Greenville – its Eastern North Carolina premiere. So here is an example of what I do as NCLR editor and will continue to do for as long as I am able: When you see that play advertised in your area, go see it – and bring a friend. If you don’t see it coming to your community, bring it to your community. This play about the collaboration between our own Paul Green, creator of The Lost Colony, and Richard Wright on adapting Wright’s Native Son for the stage in the early 1940s explores conversations we should be having, not shying away from, about the American ideals that are not equally accessible to everyone, about recognizing discrimination and white privilege. It is a provocative, timely play – “intense” and “moving” were the adjective my students used the class period after they saw it. Our audience ranged from ECU students to retirees, and we had an inspiring talkback when it was over. Make this happen on a stage near you. I believe we all went home that night feeling more enlightened, more empathy after hearing Green and Wright try to “talk the darkness away,”* to borrow a phrase Green once used. Isn’t that what we all need these days? To communicate, to educate until we “talk the darkness away”? Surrounded by so many good people, who support the Humanities, I feel lighter, hopeful – and so very honored to receive this award. Thank you. n

* Quoted from Green’s foreword to James Boyd, Eighteen Poems, 50th anniversary edition (Friends of Weymouth, 1944) xiii; with appreciation to James W. Clark, Jr., who called this line to my and others’ attention at a Paul Green Foundation meeting.

Profile for East Carolina University

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.