I made it back to the Decatur Public Library main branch by Tuesday evening for the last of Dr. Pearl McHaney’s free public lectures on the work of Eudora Welty. The charming and sublimely genius Welty would turn 100 on April 13, and though she is no longer with us, there will be a big birthday party at Georgia State’s Rialto Center anyway. Rumor has it there will be readings by Tom Key and Brenda Bynum, and cakes made from recipes featured in some of Welty’s characters’ cookbooks. If everything goes well, expect to hear a special edition of Cover to Cover devoted to Welty and featuring Dr. McHaney (one of the leading Welty scholars in the world) just before the occasion. So pull out your copy of The Optomist’s Daughter and brush up!
Finally, it was a great pleasure to witness the launch of the James Weldon Johnson Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies at Emory University. The scholarly institute is the brainchild of distinguished scholar of American and African-American culture, Dr. Rudolph P. Byrd. Visiting scholars are already studying, exploring and writing under the organization’s auspices and Dr. Byrd has recently edited a new volume of Johnson’s work. The event featured pledges of cooperative commitment from key leaders in the community, including Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall from Spelman, Douglass Shipman from the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and others. Mayor Shirley Franklin was spotted at the ceremony, which featured performances by the wonderful Vega String Quartet and the vocal spectacle Elder Delesslyn Kennebrew, as well as a beautiful Occasional poem by Pulitzer winner Natasha Trethewey. Dr. Byrd insists the Institute will not be only an organization of scholarship but also one of activism, and we wish him continued success in his endeavor.