Situating Spain in the Early African Diaspora: Diplomats, Minstrels, and the Memories of Juan Latino

September 10, 2018 - 1:00pm to 2:00pm

Lecture by Elizabeth R. Wright, Professor of Spanish and Editor of the Bulletin of the Comediantes, University of Georgia
​Juan Latino (circa 1517 – circa 1595) is Europe’s first known poet from the diaspora of captive and enslaved Africans. Navigating the tensions and complexities of Granada—the last redoubt of Islam in early modern Spain—he mobilized Latin erudition to claim liberty, financial stability, and public renown. This lecture examines the changing narratives of Juan Latino’s fama as a poet and educator of Renaissance Spain. In life, he cannily deployed Latin, Europe’s only cosmopolitan literary language, to conjure visions of a global empire for king Philip II while also warning this king about how racial bias would diminish his world power. Yet poets in the seventeenth century concealed Juan Latino’s accomplishments in vernacular poems steeped in the emerging tropes of minstrelsy. It is fitting, therefore, that a research trip to Spain in 1926 by an intellectual of the Harlem Renaissance recovered the epic of Juan Latino. Indeed, the gallery of notable writers construed by Arthur Schomburg in collaboration with Charles S. Johnson remains a compelling agenda for situating Spain in early-modern literary studies. 

Location and Address

Humanities Center, 602 Cathedral of Learning