On Tuesday, Feb. 15, at St. Mary’s Hall, Washington Post reporter and author Wil Haygood delivered the annual Carter G. Woodson lecture.
President Joseph Urgo introduced the lecture and explained that it was created in 1989, “to recognize the worldwide contributions of African Americans.”
Assistant Vice President for Academic Services William “Lenny” Howard introduced Haygood and explained a number of Haygood’s distinctions, including the honor of being present to watch Nelson Mandela walk out of prison.
Haygood lectured on the process a writer goes through when writing a biography.
He spent most of the lecture speaking about personal encounters he had while writing a biography of Sammy Davis Jr., however he also occasionally mentioned his other two biographies.
He kept the audience laughing with stories of people like the mother of Sammy Davis Jr., who slept though the Broadway production of Ragtime after Haygood bought her tickets.
He also expressed a more serious tone by relating the troubles of finding people to talk to, as well as explaining some sad personal histories connected with Davis’ story, like the suicide of boxer Randy Turpin.
However, this was accompanied by excitement when he was able to find someone to talk to, like a doctor who had operated on Davis.
Haygood spent about 40 minutes lecturing and another 30 minutes answering questions.
In the question and answer segment the audience asked questions not only about Haygood’s writing process, but also about his career with The Washington Post.
It was there that Haygood revealed that when he was a foreign correspondent in Somalia, he was captured by Somalian rebels and was only released after a ransom was paid.
He explained that his journey to becoming a writer started after college when he took a Macy’s executive training program in New York City.
After being a floor manager for a year he moved back in with his family.
He realized at home that he always liked writing, and he began to write newspaper editors around the country and eventually got a job as a copy editor in Charleston, West Virginia.
On his days off he would look for stories that would sometimes be published in the paper.
From there he worked his way to working for the Boston Globe and then The Washington Post.
Only a few students, approximately less than fifteen, attended the lecture.
One student said, “I was surprised at how few students there were. The subject of Sammy Davis Jr. is really interesting to me and I thought more students would have come.”
As an overall reaction, the student said, “He was great – I had no idea about what happened with him in Somalia; it was really interesting.”
Within the question and answer session, while discussing obstacles and triumphs, Haygood spoke to the few students in the room and said, “For the college students here, there are going to be a lot of obstacles, but you can overcome them.”