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Can't Stand Still: Taylor Gordon and the Harlem Renaissance

Professor Michael Johnson, from the University of Maine at

Farmington, discusses his newest book, Can't Stand Still.

The local connection to this story is not instantly obvious, but it is compelling. Born in 1893 into the only African American family in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, Emmanuel Taylor Gordon (1893–1971) first worked in the brothels of White Sulphur Springs as an errand boy. He was soon discovered by John Ringling and began traveling the country with Ringling to perform on stages all over the country. He became an internationally famous singer in the 1920s at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. Although Gordon is now all but forgotten, Johnson’s meticulous and detailed biography reveals Gordon to have ranked among the most interesting figures of the twentieth century.

The author’s primary research areas are African American Literature and the literature and culture of the American West, certainly an unusual combination. Johnson is a former President of the Western Literature Association.