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James McBride        

New York Times Best-Selling Author & Musician

James McBride is an author, musician and screenwriter. His landmark memoir, "The Color of Water," rested on the New York Times bestseller list for two years, and is considered to be an American classic.

His debut novel, "Miracle at St. Anna" was translated into a major motion picture directed by American film icon Spike Lee. McBride co-wrote "Red Hook Summer", a coming-of-age story about the issues of race, neighborhood gentrification, impotent police, and the ravaging effects of drugs and gang violence on the African American community. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. His novel, "Song Yet Sung," was released in 2009, and "The Good Lord Bird," about American revolutionary John Brown, is the winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction.

A graduate of Oberlin College and the Columbia School of Journalism, McBride has written for The Boston Globe, People and The Washington Post. As an award-winning composer and saxophonist, McBride has penned songs for Anita Baker, Grover Washington Jr. and Gary Burton, as well as for the PBS character “Barney.”

In his keynotes, McBride touches upon life’s rich lessons, exploring the nature of identity, race and heritage. He often appears with his own jazz ensemble, using music to inspire audiences and lift his colorful, often humorous stories to another level.

Speech Topics

Inspire to Live: A Lecture/Performance on Learning to Fail

The Liberal Arts Life: From Jazz to Journalism to Novel to Script

A "musical" lecture focusing on the importance of the liberal arts as learning tools for life.

The Good Lord Bird: Faith & American Slavery

In a brand-new program, James McBride shares the powerful story of John Brown, a white American abolitionist who in 1859--along with 19 others--attacked the largest arsenal of weapons in America, ultimately prompting the Civil War by terrorizing the South and galvanizing the abolitionists in the North.

In this presentation, which is based around his National Book Award winning novel, The Good Lord Bird, McBride shares the story of John Brown, using gospel and spiritual music of the time to frame his life and how it is presented in the book. Audiences will feel inspired and uplifted by the amazing music, the real-life story of a true American hero, and the powerful words of one of our greatest public speakers.

Improvisation, Teamwork & Following Your Instincts: Finding Success Through the Principles of Jazz

In this innovative program, best-selling author and professional musician James McBride shares how the basic principles of jazz - including being willing to improvise, working as a team, being creative, following your instincts, and thinking outside of the box - can be applied to the world of business for lasting results. He peppers his talk with funny and intriguing anecdotes, while illustrating his points with toe-tapping numbers performed along with a full band of career jazz artists.

The Color of Water: A Meditation on Identity

In this touching keynote speech, diversity speaker James McBride discusses the importance of learning to forgive one's past mistakes in order to press forward towards success, and the importance of failure as a successful tool for learning. McBride stresses that it is never too late to change. He uses examples from his own life and the lives of those he's come across in his wide experience to encourage young people to embrace their history, their identity, and appreciate the differences of those around them.

Who are you? A human? A student? An American citizen? You can be all of those things and more, but what part of those things is most important? McBride uses his experience of having growing up in an ethnically mixed environment to teach audiences to be kind, be a learner, and be a self starter.


James McBride Adapting 'Deacon King Kong' for TV
Global content company Sister will develop the series alongside the award-winning and best-selling author.
James McBride On The Kindness That Shaped Him: 'Emphasize ...
McBride's novel, Deacon King Kong, takes place in 1969, in a Brooklyn housing project similar to the one he grew up in. "In this book and in this community, ...

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