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Sept. 26 Lecture Will Use Banjo to Illustrate a Fascinating Global History

For release: September 16, 2013
For press information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901/678-2843

Dr. Laurent Dubois
Dr. Laurent Dubois

Dr. Laurent Dubois will use the tale of one musical instrument to illustrate a fascinating global history. He will discuss “The Banjo: Roots, Routes and Ideas About ‘America’” Thursday, Sept. 26, in the University Center Theatre at the University of Memphis. A reception will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by the lecture and book signing at 6 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities, is free and open to the public.

Parking is available in the Zach Curlin garage adjacent to the University Center.

The banjo’s sound is synonymous with country, folk and bluegrass. For many, it is the quintessential American instrument. Its origin, though, lies in various instruments from Africa, and Caribbean and North American slaves fashioned them into the modern version in the 18th century. The banjo moved from the plantations into the minstrel music of the 19th century, finding its place in a range of performance styles including ragtime, jazz, string-band music and later, folk and bluegrass.

Dubois argues that by listening to and watching the banjo, we get a different perspective on the idea of “America,” one that emphasizes the ways in which our culture has been shaped by constant crossings between Africa, the Caribbean and North America over the past centuries.

Dubois is the Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History and director of the Center for French & Francophone Studies at Duke University. His books include Haiti: The Aftershocks of History; Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution; and Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France.

His address is the Sesquicentennial Lecture in History. It will feature a special performance by Randal Morton, former national banjo champion.

The event is further made possible by Public Service Funds.

For more information on this event or the Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities, visit or email

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