Talks Humanities

Can We Talk About Stephen Foster?

How do we appreciate the legacy of the "father of American music" while addressing its problematic origin?


$10 General / $8 Members

Thu, Sep 27



Box Office


Irish Arts Center
553 West 51st Street
New York, NY 10019


Described as the “father of American music,” Stephen Foster penned an oeuvre that includes “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Hard Times Come Again No More,” songs that helped weave the fabric of this country’s musical heritage.  

But for all of his artistic impact, Foster’s legacy is complex: he also wrote for minstrel shows, which were founded on the comic enactments of racial stereotypes. In April of this year, the city of Pittsburgh removed a public statue of Stephen Foster with an African American man playing banjo at his feet.

For many years, ethnomusicologist Mick Moloney has explored connections between Foster’s songwriting, traditional Irish music, and black banjo music, and together with Irish Arts Center has sought an appropriate platform to present this history.

As part of this exploration, we will bring together a number of cultural practitioners impacted by Foster for a conversation about his legacy. How do we appreciate Foster’s musical influence while addressing its controversial origin?

Join Mick Moloney, musician Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, artist and curator Leni Sloan, author and historian Emily Bingham, music journalist and Stephen Foster biographer Ken Emerson, and IAC director of programming and education Rachael Gilkey for a conversation that asks where we go from here.



Our Supporters

Irish Arts Center programs are supported, in part, by government partners including the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council; Culture Ireland, the agency for the promotion of Irish arts worldwide; the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Consulate of Ireland in New York; The Ireland Funds, America; Howard Gilman Foundation; Tourism Ireland; Bloomberg Philanthropies; The Nancy Malone Living Trust; The Shubert Foundation; The Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in New York City; The Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in Westchester County; The Knights of St. Patrick; The Jerome L. Greene Foundation; Milwaukee Irish Fest Foundation; and thousands of generous donors like you.

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