June 27, 2007

Samuel Greenlee to speak at SIUC on Thursday

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Poet, author, playwright, filmmaker and political activist Samuel Greenlee captured public attention and acclaim with his work, particularly his novels "The Spook Who Sat by the Door" and "Baghdad Blues". Now, Southern Illinoisans can hear for themselves from the man whose satirical "spook" novel illustrated racism in America.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Black American Studies Lecture Series will present an evening with Greenlee at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 28, in the Student Center Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

"This has really been sparked by Candace Griffin, who just graduated in May," said the Rev. Joseph Brown, director of the Black Studies Program at SIUC. "She created this extraordinary 75-minute documentary, 'Got Purpose' and it includes Sam Greenlee and others talking to her generation about how you have got to have purpose. I was watching the documentary with my nephew in East St. Louis a while back and talking about the people in it and I realized Sam Greenlee needs to be here so people can see him in person and not just on film. His book, 'The Spook Who Sat by the Door,' was one of those transforming books in black culture in the 1960's.

"That book was published almost 40 years ago and I still hear from young people about what an impact it has had on them," Brown added. "We're very excited Sam Greenlee is coming here."

Greenlee will speak and also show the film based upon his novel, Brown said.

Greenlee, 76, received a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin and studied international relations at the University of Chicago, adding to his educational studies at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece. He served in the Army from 1952 to 1954 and his writings draw on his varied experiences as he leads readers to examine racial awareness or lack thereof within agencies and institutions in America.

"The Spook Who Sat by the Door" was the "London Sunday Times" book of the year in 1969 and won the Meritorious Service Award from the United States Information Agency. His works also include "Blues for an African Princess," a poetry collection, and "Ammunition: Poetry and Other Raps."

Sponsorship for Greenlee's visit includes Black American Studies, SIUC's associate vice chancellor for diversity, Racial and Ethnic Minority Programming and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. For more information, call 618/453-7147.