Author McBride named as DSU May commencement speaker

DOVER — Delaware State University’s May 12 commencement ceremony will feature acclaimed author, screenwriter and musician James McBride as the keynote speaker.

Mr. McBride well speak to around 600 graduates as well as to their families, friends and supporters who gather with them at the commencement’s Alumni Stadium site on campus.

Mr. McBride’s landmark memoir, “The Color of Water,” resided on the New York Times bestseller list for two years and is considered an American classic that is read in schools and universities across the United States.

James McBride

His debut novel “Miracle at St. Anna,” a story of the Buffalo Soldiers in World War II and their interactions with the Italians during that conflict, became a 2008 feature film by Spike Lee. Under the filmmaker’s guidance, Mr. McBride also wrote the screenplay adaptation of his book for the movie.

His novel, “Song Yet Sung,” is a highly charged story of an escaped female slave in 1850, who desperately eludes a skilled slave catcher through the treacherous swamps of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. His latest novel “The Good Lord Bird,” about American revolutionary John Brown, is the winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction.

Mr. McBride is a former staff writer for the Washington Post, People magazine, and The Boston Globe. His work has appeared in Essence, Rolling Stones, and The New York Times. His April 2007 National Geographic story entitled “Hip Hop Planet” is considered a respected treatise on African American music and culture.

The author is no stranger to Delaware, as he got his start in journalism in 1980-81 as a writer for the News Journal and resided at that time in Wilmington.

He toured as a saxophonist sideman with jazz legend Jimmy Scott, among others. He has also written songs (music and lyrics) for Anita Baker, Grover Washington Jr., Purafe, Gary Burton, and even for the PBS television character “Barney.” He received the Stephen Sondheim Award and the Richard Rodgers Foundation Horizon Award for his musical “Bo-Bos” co-written with playwright Ed Shockley.

Mr. McBride is a native New Yorker and a graduate of New York City public schools. He studied composition at The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and earned a Master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York at age 22. He holds several honorary doctorates and is currently a distinguished writer in residence at New York University.

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