LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Arts Council and the Robeson County Public Library will hold a series of discussions on famed journalist and Fairmont native Joseph Mitchell.
The series, titled “River Voices: Robeson Reads Joseph Mitchell,” celebrates Mitchell, a journalist and writer who died in 1996 and helped usher in the literary journalism movement with articles about bearded ladies, gypsies, street people and unique places like Fulton’s Fish Market and McSorley’s Old Ale House.
“Joseph Mitchell’s work is revered throughout the world and is still taught in journalism classes,” said Mary Ann Masters, president of the Robeson County Arts Council. “We want to be sure future generations remember and appreciate Mr. Mitchell’s talent and his love for his homeland, our county.”
Mitchell was born in 1908 to a prosperous agribusiness family in Fairmont. He left the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1929 and arrived in New York the night before the stock market crash that prompted the Depression. He quickly took to news writing at The World and then at the Herald Tribune and World Telegram.
He covered the Bruno Hauptman’s trial for the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s young son — heralded the “trial of the century.” In 1938, he joined The New Yorker magazine where he wrote articles on eccentrics as well as working men and women.
The series will being on Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. in Mitchell’s hometown of Fairmont at the Old Stage, located at 205 Thompson St. Jim Pate, a native of Fairmont, will provide music at 6 p.m. and join in the panel discussion at 7 p.m.
Panelists for all seven events include Wendy Miller, chair of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s English, theatre and foreign languages departments who specializes in Southern writers. Scott Bigelow and Stephen Byrd will moderate the program at alternating events. Miller; Joey Mitchell, Mitchell’s nephew; and Pate, a mentee of Mitchell’s, will answer questions from the audience in an interactive format after their presentations.
The series will focus not only on Mitchell’s career and life, but also articles from “Up in the Old Hotel,” the last book Mitchell published. The events are sponsored by the Robeson County Public Library, UNC P, the city of Lumberton, the Lumberton Visitors Bureau and the Robeson County Board of Commissioners. Live music, refreshments and audience participation will accompany each discussion.
The Mitchell series will continue with the following events:
— Sept. 29: The Rowland Public Library will host a reading on “McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon” with music provided by slide-guitarist Lakota John and Kin.
— Oct. 13: Maxton Public Library will host a discussion on “Mazie” and “Lady Olga” with music by Lakota John and Kin.
— Nov. 3: Pembroke Public Library will host a discussion on “The Downfall of Fascism in Black Ankle” and “Mohawks in High Steel.” Music will be provided by Lakota John and Kin.
— Nov. 17: Red Springs Public Library will host a discussion on a yet-to-be-determined Mitchell piece with music by Delano Townsend on jazz keyboard.
— Jan. 12: St. Pauls Public Library will host a discussion on an undetermined Mitchell piece with music by Delano Townsend.
— Feb. 2: Osterneck Auditorium of the Robeson County Public Library in Lumberton will host a discussion on “The Bottom of the Harbor.” Music will be provided by Delano Townsend.
Reservations for the Fairmont event can be made by calling the Robeson County Public Library at 910-738-4859 or The Stage at 910-628-9965.