Exhibit to feature famed Demopolis author’s typewriter

James Haskins (1941-2005), a Demopolis native and educator, undertook to make up for the absence of children’s books on black historical figures, and he ultimately became one of America’s most published children’s book authors with more than 100 works of nonfiction to his credit. He once recalled that he “stumbled into writing” while teaching a special needs class of 10-year-olds at Public School 92 in New York City in 1967. As a result of his early career in teaching, Haskins wrote Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher (1969) that compelled reform of New York public schools with African-American enrollments.

Demopolis native James Haskins won numerous awards for the books he authored, including several Coretta Scott King Awards and his book, “The Cotton Club,” was the basis of a movie by the same name.

Haskins’s biographical books included subjects such as Rosa Parks, Tuscaloosa-born Dinah Washington, Richard Pryor, Hank Aaron, and Scott Joplin. His history book about the famous Cotton Club nightclub served as a resource for the movie The Cotton Club (1984) by famed Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola. When Haskins died in July 2005, he was working as an English professor at The University of Florida which has agreed to loan his typewriter for exhibition with others on display in The University of Alabama Gallery, Tuscaloosa, from Friday, November 2, 2018, until December 2, 2018. In advance of the University exhibit, the Haskins typewriter will be displayed in the Demopolis Public Library October 18th through the 25th.

Arranged by The Southern Literary Trail, based at Mississippi State University in Starkville, a collection of typewriters once owned by notable writers and collected by Los Angeles civic leader Steve Soboroff is on a traveling exhibition through the South that originated at MSU in August. Novelist John Grisham was one of the visitors to the exhibit on the Starkville campus.

Alabama Types is sponsored in Tuscaloosa with the support of the University’s departments of English and Theatre & Dance within the College of Arts and Sciences. It is made possible by a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more information about the Haskins exhibit in Demopolis, call the Public Library at 334-289-1595. For Tuscaloosa information, call 205-348-9950 or visit the Alabama Types page on Facebook. The UA Gallery, 620 Greensboro, is open on Monday through Friday except holidays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be extended hours in the Cultural Arts Center for the exhibit’s opening on Friday, November 2, until 8 p.m. Admission to the exhibit is free.

(This article originally appeared in the Saturday, October 13 issue of the Demopolis Times.)