Cover Story in NC State Magazine


During my second semester in the MFA program at NCSU, which coincided with the beginning of the pandemic, I took a class on Langston Hughes taught by the extremely well read Langston Hughes scholar Dr. Jason Miller. During the class we we picked final presentation topics which had to do with Hughes. Most of us never got to research the final presentation topics we chose because they would have required doing in-person research. Instead, once the pandemic hit, Dr. Miller invited us to join him in completing a research project he had begun which was tracking the relationship between Nina Simone and Langston Hughes. Hughes' and Simone's collaboration resulted in Simone adapting Hughes' poem "The Backlash Blues" into a song "Backlash Blues." We each found different ways to explore either Hughes' and Simone's friendship or the song. I decided to research the way that Simone's performances adhered to or altered the original lyrics of the poem using as many video clips as I could find of her singing the song over the course of her career. My research was chosen, along with Kelly Pryor's, Lauren McKenzie's, and Austin Horne's to be compiled into a website which, along with Dr. Miller's scholarship, serves as a resource base for information about "Backlash Blues" and the relationship between Nina Simone and Langston Hughes. You can find my research under the "Backlash Blues" tab on the website - click "Performance Variations."

Sometime after we completed our projects, NC State Magazine decided to write a story about Dr. Miller's research and our collaborative additions to it. The story, skillfully written by Chris Saunders, is the cover story for the autumn issue of the magazine. Images of the cover, the front page of the story, and the page that features a photograph and mention of yours truly can be found below. Ironically, I am currently in the midst of hearing my own students give some amazing final presentations based on Tressie McMillan Cottom's Thick. Dr. Miller was one of my recommenders as I got out into the academic job market. I know, I would not be in the position that I am, teaching a group of curious and intelligent young people, if I hadn't taken his class. Furthermore, I probably wouldn't have as much to share with my students because his class was very revelatory both in its content and in the ways I observed him interacting with students - with empathy and without pretension. Thanks for your guidance and instruction Dr. Miller. Get your copy of this magazine on campus or by joining the alumni association!