African American-Turkish Connections through the Arts
On October 5th, the Institute of Turkish Studies, housed at SFS, and the Turkish Coalition of America hosted a presentation and discussion with Dr. Magdalena J. Zaborowska of the University of Michigan, author of James Baldwin's Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile, and Dr. Maurice Jackson of Georgetown University. The program celebrated the little-known connections between the African-American communities of the United States and Turkey through a look at the extraordinary lives of James Baldwin and Ahmet Ertegün. The Howard University Jazz Ensemble performed.
James Baldwin lived in Turkey for a number of years during the 1960s and 1970s. His self-imposed exile there had an immeasurable effect on his artistic and personal development, but is often overlooked in biographies of the controversial author. Ahmet Ertegün was the son of the first Turkish ambassador to the United States and moved to Washington in the early 1930s.
At the time of his father’s death in 1944, Ertegün was studying medieval history at the graduate level at Georgetown University. He established the Nesuhi Ertegün Professorship in Modern Turkish Studies at the School of Foreign Service in his father’s honor. Ertegün was heavily influenced by the African-American community in D.C. and remained in the United States long after his father's death, going on to found Atlantic Records and develop stars including Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Led Zeppelin.