James McBride '79, saxophone, composer

James McBride is an author, musician, and screenwriter. His 1996 memoir, The Color of Water, is a standard selection in many schools and universities across the United States. It remained on the New York Times bestseller list for two years and has been translated into 16 languages. His debut novel, Miracle at St. Anna, was transformed into a major motion picture directed by Spike Lee and released by Disney/Touchstone Pictures in September 2008. McBride also wrote the script for the film, now available on DVD. His latest novel, Song Yet Sung, is now in paperback.

McBride is a native New Yorker. He studied composition at the conservatory and later received his master's in journalism degree at Columbia University. He had a brief yet successful career as a staff writer for the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and People magazine. His stories have appeared in Essence and Rolling Stone magazines, and the New York Times. His April 2007 National Geographic story entitled “Hip Hop Planet” is a highly respected discourse on African American music and culture.

In addition to his literary and journalism career, McBride is a saxophonist who tours with his six-piece jazz, rhythm and blues band. He served as a sideman with jazz legend Jimmy Scott. He has written songs, both music and lyrics, for Anita Baker, Grover Washington Jr., Purafe, Gary Burton, and for the PBS television character “Barney,” though not the famous I Love You song.

A frequent speaker or lecturer at Oberlin, McBride holds several honorary doctorates and is currently a distinguished writer in residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. He is married with three children.

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