Gerald Early, National Scholar and Leader

Gerald Early (1952- ) is a scholar of cultural arts, including literature, history, and jazz. An English professor who founded the Center of Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis, he has long held the title of Merle King Professor of Modern Letters and chaired the African and African-American Studies Department there. His awards include the Whiting Award for Nonfiction (1988), the General Electric Foundation Award (1988), and the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism (1994).

Equipped with the highest academic degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell, Dr. Early’s achievements extend through his knowledge of literature and history into the fields of film, music, and sports.

According to, “He has been nominated twice for a Grammy Award in the Best Album Notes category for Yes I Can! The Sammy Davis Jr. Story (2000) and Rhapsodies in Black: Music and Words From the Harlem Renaissance (2001). A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has been a regular commentator on National Public Radio’s ‘Fresh Air.’ He also served as a consultant on Ken Burns’ documentary films on baseball and jazz, which both aired on PBS.”

A lecture he presented about Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Universitiy of California Berkeley can be listened to here:

University of California Berkeley Clock Tower ©Author Adventures

He was appointed to a five-year term as a member of the National Council on the Humanities by President Barack Obama in 2013.

His Writing

A prolific anthologist and essayist, many of Dr. Early’s books can be found here:

Notable works include:

  • Tuxedo Junction: Essays on American Culture (1989)
  • My Soul’s High Song: The Collected Works of Countee Cullen (1991)
  • Lure and Loathing: Essays on Race, Identity, and the Ambivalence of Assimilation (1993)
  • Speech and Power (1993)
  • The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Prizefighting, Literature, and Modern American Culture (1994)
  • Daughters: On Family and Fatherhood (1994)
  • One Nation Under a Groove: Motown and American Culture (1994)
  • Body Language: Writers on Sport (1998)
  • The Muhammad Ali Reader (1998)
  • The Sammy Davis, Jr., Reader (2001)
  • This is Where I Came In: Essays on Black America in the 1960s (2003)
  • Best African American Essays (2009, 2010)
  • Best African American Fiction (2009, 2010)
  • A Level-Playing Field: African American Athletes and the Republic of Sports (2011)

The Place

The Department of African and African-American Studies Department hosts events, some of which are open to the public and many of which can be seen virtually. They include film festivals, lectures, and workshops. Examples of past events are listed here:

In addition to participating in this legacy of the writer’s leadership, readers can visit his star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame at 6263 Delmar.

This is the third stop on the Missouri Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart