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Seeking Will Thomas’s The Seeking

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March 13, 5:30 pm, Special Collections Reading Room, Bailey/Howe Library

Mark Madigan of Nazareth College will talk about his research on writer Will Thomas for a new edition of Thomas’s book The Seeking, published by Northeastern University Press in 2013 as part of the Northeastern Library of Black Literature.

After  Will Thomas abandoned a plan to move to Haiti to escape racial prejudice in the United States, he made the improbable decision to relocate his family to Westford, Vermont in 1946. The Seeking offers not only a remarkable account of the Thomases’ experience as the only non-white members of their rural community, but also gives insight into race relations in New England in the first half of the twentieth century. Well-received upon publication in 1953, the book soon faded into obscurity, as did its writer, whose other work includes a novel and a substantial body of journalism for African-American newspapers and pulp magazines.

To write his introduction to the new edition, Madigan consulted letters in the papers of Irene Allen, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, and Bradford Smith in Special Collections. Dan Gediman, the executive director of This I Believe, Inc. contributed the afterword. His interest in Thomas was prompted by an essay that Thomas read on Edward R. Murrow’s radio show, This I Believe, in 1953.

Madigan received his B.A. from St. Michael’s College, an M.A. from the University of Vermont and a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts. He is the editor of Youth and the Bright Medusa in the Willa Cather Scholarly Edition, Seasoned Timber by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (UP New England, 1996), The Bedquilt and Other Stories by Fisher, and Keeping Fires Night and Day: Selected Letters of Dorothy Canfield Fisher. He is currently  writing an essay on Charles Chesnutt’s short story “The Passing of Grandison” and co-directing “Cather and Europe/Europe and Cather”, a symposium being held in Rome in June 2014.

The presentation is free and open to the public. For more information, email uvmsc@uvm.edu or call 656-2138.

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