Clifton Taulbert, famed author, visits Oxford
Feb. 18, 2003
By John Wilbert
Editors note: This article originally appeared in the Feb. 18, 2003, issue of The Daily Mississippian.
OXFORD, Miss. — Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Clifton L. Taulbert read some of his prized works Monday night in the Old Chemistry Auditorium as part of Ole Miss yearlong observance of the 40th anniversary of its desegregation.
Taulbert read from his most recent book, The Journey Home: A Fathers Gift to His Son, a story about a father dedicated to showing his son what life was like for him while growing up during segregation. Upon returning to Mississippi, Taulbert shared excerpts from his other books, which draw from his childhood.
Taulbert grew up in the Mississippi Delta community of Glen Allan from 1946 to 1962. He speaks to various audiences about his experiences of growing up in the segregated South, the inspiration for his best-selling book Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored and other autobiographical books.
“I want to set the stage about why coming home is so important to me and so important to me to bring my son, and what it means to come home,” Taulbert said. “So I kind of would take a 21st century look at making a decision to take my 21st century son back into another world and what I wanted him to encounter while on that journey.”
Taulbert expressed anticipation in visiting Ole Miss, English Department chair Joseph Urgo said.
“We approached him simply on merits of him as a writer,” Urgo said.
Taulbert said he admired James Meredith, who was the first black student at Ole Miss and credited with the universitys desegregation 40 years ago.
“I admire other people like him who pioneered their lives for the benefit of a lot of us,” Taulbert said. “I think it is just absolutely admirable how he managed to move his life through the campus despite the circumstances he faced. Im not sure if I would be able to do that.”
Taulbert also participated in a book signing Monday at Off Square Books in downtown Oxford. Taulbert, whose visit was sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writer Series and the Department of English, also chatted with fans in the bookstore.
“Its a great honor for us to have him here,” Urgo said. “Hes a major voice in African-American letters.”
Ethel Young-Minor, assistant professor of English and African-American studies, escorted Taulbert around campus and Oxford Monday.
“The whole idea of him being from Mississippi and the whole world has embraced him, I think we need to do a better job of embracing him here at home,” Young-Minor said.
Taulbert said he is proud to see how things have changed within Mississippi since he moved away from the state when he was 16-years-old.
“I try to find whatever spark of light there is, and I can honestly say that when I returned to my home state for whatever reason, I see an experience with remarkable change,” Taulbert said.
“The world has not come of age. It is still growing in progress and so will the state of Mississippi.”
Taulbert will receive another distinguishing mark Saturday when he gets the Richard Wright Award of Literary Excellence in Natchez.
Aside from writing five books largely based on growing up in the Mississippi Delta, Taulbert is also president of The Building Community Institute in Tulsa, Okla., whose philosophy statement establishes a goal “to energize our efforts to rebuild and build anew environments that foster justice, compassion, productivity and vision.”
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