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Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture

The Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture Series was established after the Library Foundation received a gift from the estate of Marian McFadden, Director of Public Libraries in Indianapolis from 1945-1956. This annual author lecture series, which typically takes place in the Spring, was named in her honor. Learn more about additional author events The Library hosts throughout the year.

2024 Lecturer
Misty Copeland

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the 2024 Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture. Seated together on stage, Ashley C. Ford and Misty Copeland shared an evening of companionable conversation about Misty's experiences, her mentors, and the life-changing power of opportunities to explore the arts.

You can read more in Misty's most recent book, The Wind at My Back: Resilience, Grace, and Other Gifts From My Mentor, Raven Wilkins (2022).

print book | e-book | downloadable audiobook

"Misty Copeland made history as the first African-American principal ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre. Her talent, passion, and perseverance enabled her to make strides no one had accomplished before. But as she will tell you, achievement never happens in a void. Behind her, supporting her rise was her mentor, Raven Wilkinson, who had been virtually alone in her quest to breach the all-white ballet world when she fought to be taken seriously as a Black ballerina in the 1950s and 60s. A trailblazer in the world of ballet decades before Misty's time, Raven faced overt and casual racism, hostile crowds, and death threats for having the audacity to dance ballet. The Wind at My Back tells the story of two unapologetically Black ballerinas, their friendship, and how they changed each other--and the dance world--forever."

At the end of the lecture, young ballet students had the opportunity to ask Misty a question. One of them was, if you could tell young dancers one thing, what would it be?

"You have the power to not let other people's words define you."

Misty Copeland is the author of the New York Times Bestselling memoir, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, co-written with award-winning journalist and author Charisse Jones. She has also published several children’s books including the award-winning Firebird, illustrated by Christopher Myers, and Bunheads, a biographical glimpse of young Misty as she makes friends and auditions for a role in Coppélia.

Misty is a celebrated artist, making history as the first black woman to perform the lead role of Odette/Odile in American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake. In June 2015, Misty was promoted to principal dancer, making her the first African American woman to ever be promoted to the position in the company’s 75-year history.

More Books By Misty Copeland

Black Ballet Dancers

This list contains beautiful children's fiction and nonfiction stories about Black ballet dancers!

Dancing in the Wings

Allen, Debbie

Sometimes the things that make us different, can be our greatest gifts. This is a beautiful story about a young girl whose dream is to become a ballerina, written by Debbie Allen and illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

Brave Ballerina

The Story of Janet Collins

Meadows, Michelle

Janet Collins broke color barriers in the 1950s when she became the first African American prima ballerina and one of the few classically trained Black dancers in American classical ballet.


The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson

Schubert, Leda

This is a great story about the journey of Raven Wilkinson, and how she became a pioneer in the world of ballet. There is also a great forward by Misty Copeland.

Past Lecturers:

  • 2024 - Misty Copeland
  • 2023 - Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • 2022 - Kadir Nelson
  • 2021 - Cancelled due to COVID-19
  • 2020 - Cancelled due to COVID-19
  • 2019 - Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • 2018 - Jeff Kinney
  • 2017 - Junot Díaz
  • 2016 - Jacqueline Woodson
  • 2015 - Khaled Hosseini
  • 2014 - David Wiesner
  • 2013 - Ann Patchett
  • 2012 - Mo Willems
  • 2011 - Bob Woodward
  • 2010 - Neil Gaiman
  • 2009 - Nicholas Sparks
  • 2008 - Eric Carle
  • 2007 - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (delivered by Mark Vonnegut)
  • 2006 - Patricia Cornwell
  • 2005 - Marc Brown
  • 2004 - John Irving
  • 2003 - Louis Sachar
  • 2002 - David McCullough
  • 2001 - Tomie dePaola
  • 2000 - Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • 1999 - Judy Blume
  • 1998 - Margaret Atwood
  • 1997 - Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith
  • 1996 - Amy Tan
  • 1995 - Gary Paulsen
  • 1994 - William Styron
  • 1993 - Chris Van Allsburg
  • 1992 - Gail Godwin
  • 1991 - Maurice Sendak
  • 1990 - John Updike
  • 1989 - David Macaulay
  • 1988 - Tom Wolfe
  • 1987 - Lloyd Alexander
  • 1986 - Kurt Vonnegut
  • 1985 - Jean Fritz
  • 1984 - James Baldwin
  • 1983 - Richard Peck
  • 1982 - Gail Sheehy
  • 1981 - Scott O'Dell
  • 1980 - Norman Mailer
  • 1979 - Elaine L. Konigsburg
  • 1978 - Saul Bellow
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