KEY WEST, Florida Keys — An exploration of today’s Black literature and African-American literary history awaits audiences now through Sunday, Jan. 15, during the 40th annual Key West Literary Seminar. Themed “Singing America: A Celebration of Black Literature,” the seminar brings together nearly two dozen dynamic contemporary authors, poets, journalists and scholars in an open-air subtropical setting.
Renowned for its intimate atmosphere where attendees can interact and exchange ideas, the gathering is headquartered at Key West’s Coffee Butler Amphitheater, 21 Quay Road in Truman Waterfront Park. The amphitheater’s main seating area is within a spacious open-ended saddlespan tent, while other covered areas provide additional seating and shade.
Among featured writers are historian and author Annette Gordon-Reed, famed for her books exploring Thomas Jefferson’s controversial relationship with mixed-race woman Sally Hemings; Tayari Jones, New York Times bestselling author of “An American Marriage” and other novels; Deesha Philyaw, whose “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” is being adapted for television by HBO Max; Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jericho Brown; and Tananarive Due, a longtime leader in Black speculative fiction.
The seminar began Thursday evening with a keynote presentation by Kevin Young, poetry editor of the New Yorker and director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Author of 13 books of prose and poetry, including the recent poetry collection “Stones,” Young gave an address titled “African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song.”
Subsequent days feature solo and group discussions, readings, lectures, book signings and receptions where attendees and authors can mingle. Other scheduled events include a reception celebrating the seminar’s 40th anniversary, guided walking tours showcasing Key West’s rich literary heritage, evening cocktail gatherings and performances by the acclaimed Ambassador Chorale from Florida Memorial University, South Florida’s only historically Black university.
While many seminar activities are open only to registrants, the program includes Friday and Saturday evening sessions and all-day Sunday presentations that are open to the public.
Advance registration is required to attend the seminar in full and can be accomplished online at kwls.org/seminar/. The fee of $675 per person includes admission to all onstage events, the opening reception and social activities among other benefits.
Seminar information and schedule: kwls.org
The Key West Literary Seminar takes place each January at Coffee Butler Amphitheater at Truman Waterfront Park. This view shows the main stage decorated for the 2022 event's theme of "Desire."