News & Events

September 4: McKinley E. Melton on "Facing the Fire This Time"

McKinley E. Melton will give a talk to the Hampshire community on Friday, September 4 — “Facing the Fire This Time: James A. Baldwin and a Prophecy Fulfilled?"

McKinley E. Melton, Gettysburg College Assistant Professor of English and former Hampshire College faculty member, will give a talk to the Hampshire community on Friday, September 4 — “Facing the Fire This Time: James A. Baldwin and a Prophecy Fulfilled?" — at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert Crown Center gymnasium. Melton’s talk, part of Hampshire’s orientation weekend, explores topics raised in James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, which was chosen as this year’s common reading for incoming Hampshire students.

The talk is open to the public. Doors open at 7:15 p.m.

"The contemporary moment is rooted in our collective history, and understanding that allows us to understand our present," says Melton. "My goal is to help students think through the relevance of The Fire Next Time as a common reading. There's a reason why people are still reading this book today. In particular, The Fire Next Time reflects on faith, personal belief, and the escalation of ideological conflict. Baldwin's words continue to resonate, informing our ongoing conversations around social justice and

providing significant insight into contemporary issues such as police brutality, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the recent debates over the Confederate flag in the wake of the tragic shooting in Charleston.”

Baldwin was one of the most important African-American intellectuals of the twentieth century. In his novels, essays, and plays he explored the themes of race and sexuality in unprecedentedly complex and provocative terms. Baldwin taught at Hampshire from 1983 to 1986. Hampshire's James Baldwin Scholars Program, which provides scholarships to talented students from underserved communities, was founded in his honor.

Dean of Multicultural Education and Inclusion Kristen Luschen says that, after the success of Solomon Northup's Twelve Years a Slave as the common reading last year, she's encouraged to see another book that will continue to encourage dialogue on history, race, and the legacy of slavery, and how they influence a current generation of students.

"I hope the conversations that come from this quickly engage students, and show how we are implicated in what's happening in the world," she says.


McKinley E. Melton earned his Ph.D. from the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and earned B.A. degrees in English and in African & African American Studies from Duke University. Melton is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University, and was also awarded a 2015-16 Junior Faculty Career Enhancement Fellowship by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. His research

focuses primarily on the relationship between the spiritual traditions and the literary, artistic, and cultural expressions of the modern Black diaspora. Melton’s published works include essays on the

writing of James Baldwin, Richard Wright, James Weldon Johnson, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A former member of the faculty at Hampshire College (2007-2012), Melton is now an assistant professor of English at Gettysburg College. His teaching interests are in literatures of Africa and the

African Diaspora, most specifically 19th- and 20th-century African American literature, and his courses are designed to engage the intersections of social, political, and cultural movements as part of a

critical approach to Africana literature.

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