Our unique historical series Meet the Past with Crosby Kemper III landed its second regional Emmy Award in as many years over the weekend, for a program spotlighting preeminent African American writer, folklorist, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston.
The episode—with longtime Johnson County Community College professor Carmaletta Williams in the role of Hurston—was produced in collaboration with KCPT-TV and broadcast by the public television station on March 19, 2015.
Meet the Past features Kemper, the Library's director, interviewing an actor or re-enactor portraying a famous individual with Kansas City connections. The Hurston episode was recorded live on February 25, 2015, at the downtown Central Library.
The Mid-America chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded the program an Emmy in the category of interview or discussion program. Library Director of Strategic Initiatives Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner and KCPT representatives accepted the award—"for excellence in a program, series or special consisting of material that is at least 75% unscripted"—during the chapter's 39th annual gala on Saturday, October 3, 2015, in St. Louis.
The chapter includes television markets primarily in Missouri, Arkansas, and Illinois and parts of Kansas, Kentucky, Iowa, and Louisiana.
"The Kansas City Public Library is honored to have received an Emmy from the Mid-America chapter of NATAS for the second year in a row," Kemper says. "Meet the Past is a unique contribution to the Library's mission of lifelong learning, bringing knowledge of our local, regional, and national history and culture to television audiences in an entertaining as well as enlightening way.
"Special kudos to Carmaletta Williams, whose portrayal of Zora Neale Hurston made this a special show."
— Angee Simmons (@AngeeSimmons) October 4, 2015
Conceived by former Library Director of Public Affairs Henry Fortunato and launched in 2009, Meet the Past won its first Emmy in 2014 for a program spotlighting celebrated African American horse trainer and equestrian showman Tom Bass. The series' other subjects have ranged from Harry S. Truman to Walt Disney, Jesse James, Charlie Parker, and Mark Twain. Fortunato served as a producer.
The episode revolving around Hurston, who published her seminal Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937, drew a crowd of 261 to the Central Library. A dynamic presence in the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston published three other novels, two books of folklore, an autobiography, numerous short stories, and several essays, articles, and plays over a career that spanned more than 30 years.
Williams, recently retired from Johnson County Community after serving 26 years as a professor of English, has focused her academic interest in part on Hurston, the Missouri-born Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. Williams has performed a one-woman play, Zora Neale Hurston: Queen of the Harlem Renaissance, throughout the Midwest and took part in a series of presentations on classic African American literature at our Bluford Branch in 2011.
Major funding for this episode of Meet the Past was provided by the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, UMB Bank, n.a., Trustee.
More episodes of the program can be viewed online at kclibrary.org/meet-the-past.