Telling Kentucky's Story

Kentucky Reads

Kentucky Humanities announces Kentucky Reads project

Statewide literacy initiative centers on Pulitzer Prize-winning novel
All the King’s Men by Kentucky native Robert Penn Warren


LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 24, 2018) – Kentucky Humanities’ new project, Kentucky Reads: All the King’s Men, will use Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to guide a statewide conversation on contemporary populism and political discourse, and their relationship to journalism. With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as cooperation with valued partners, Kentucky Humanities will host a series of community discussions and events centered on Warren’s celebrated and timeless work, and what it can teach us today.

Kentucky Reads centers around community discussions taking place in five cities across the Commonwealth: Bowling Green, Highland Heights, Lexington, Louisville, and Paducah. Each discussion features a unique panel that includes a journalist, a public official, and a scholar, who will participate in a moderated conversation about how Warren’s novel depicts the role of rural journalism and media in politics. They will also discuss how journalism is critical to creating an informed populace and preserving democracy.

Kentucky Humanities will also partner with Kentucky Educational Television (KET), the University Press of Kentucky, and the Gaines Center for the Humanities at the University of Kentucky throughout the project. Award-winning filmmaker Tom Thurman has produced a documentary on Robert Penn Warren which will debut in the fall. A new book by Warren scholar and Northern Kentucky University Professor Dr. Jonathan S. Cullick entitled Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men: A Reader’s Companion will be released by the University Press of Kentucky in August. In September, bestselling author Jon Meacham will be the keynote speaker at the Bale Boone Symposium, an annual lecture produced by the Gaines Center for the Humanities. Meacham will talk about Warren’s impact on American literature and culture.

"Politics is one of Americans’ favorite pastimes, regardless of who’s in office. In recent years, with the rise of populist movements, the advent of ‘fake news,’ and debate on how the news and social media influence voters, there is renewed interest in the themes that Warren explored in All the King’s Men,” says Bill Goodman, Executive Director of Kentucky Humanities. "In addition to encouraging people to read the book, we want to provide Kentuckians with opportunities for discussion with experts and scholars who can provide perspective on these often contentious ideas in a civil setting.”

Robert Penn Warren was born in Guthrie, Kentucky, in 1905. He was the first U.S. Poet Laureate, and the only writer to win the Pulitzer Prize in both poetry and fiction. He earned degrees from Vanderbilt University, the University of California, Berkeley, Yale University, and New College, Oxford in the United Kingdom. All the King’s Men was published in 1946 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1947. It tells the story of journalist Jack Burden, who begins as a mere documentarian of the rise of Willie Stark and ends up as Governor Stark’s press agent. As Stark’s populist demagoguery becomes more sinister, Burden must reckon with his conscience. Stark’s character is widely perceived to be based on notorious Louisiana governor Huey Long.

A schedule of Kentucky Reads events can be found below.

April 24th: Paint the Town Red
Kentucky Humanities announced the Kentucky Reads program from the Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum in Guthrie, Kentucky.

June-July-August: Kentucky Humanities Book Club
Join Bill Goodman and a guest for three monthly Facebook Live discussions on All the King’s Men.

September 5th: Feature Film Screening at Lexington’s Kentucky Theater
Kentucky Theater Summer Classics screening of All the King’s Men (1949), Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Best Actor (Broderick Crawford) and Best Supporting Actress (Mercedes McCambridge).

September 9th: Documentary Sneak Preview
Preview of The Robert Penn Warren Story documentary from KET and discussion with award-winning filmmaker Tom Thurman at the Lexington Public Library Farish Theater.

September 13th: Community Forum
The Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement at Northern Kentucky University hosts a keynote address from Dr. Jonathan S. Cullick on his book, Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men: A Reader’s Companion (University Press of Kentucky, 2018), and a Community Forum on journalism and politics at the Otto M. Budig Theater.

September 17th: Bale Boone Symposium
The Gaines Center for the Humanities at the University of Kentucky presents the Bale Boone Symposium, featuring New York Times #1 bestselling author and historian Jon Meacham, speaking on the relevance of Warren’s work, from politics to race to regional culture.

September 18th: Community Forum
Paducah’s Market House Theatre hosts a live reading of scenes from the stage adaptation of All the King’s Men and a Community Forum on journalism and politics.

October 22nd: Documentary Premiere
Official KET premiere of The Robert Penn Warren Story at Van Meter auditorium on the campus of Western Kentucky University, followed by a Q&A with Rosanna Warren, poet and daughter of Robert Penn Warren, and filmmaker Tom Thurman.

October 23rd: Community Forum
The Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies at Western Kentucky University hosts a Community Forum on journalism and politics at Jody Richards Hall.

November 16th & 17th: Kentucky Book Fair
Dr. Jonathan S. Cullick teaches the KBF Master Class for high school students on November 16 and gives a Main Stage presentation at the Kentucky Book Fair on November 17, all at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena.

Unconfirmed Events
October 8th or 15th: Actors Theatre of Louisville hosts a live reading of scenes from the stage adaptation of All the King’s Men and a Community Forum on journalism and politics.
October 9th or 16th: The University of Kentucky hosts a live reading of scenes from the stage adaptation of All the King’s Men and a Community Forum on journalism and politics.

Kentucky Reads: All the King’s Men is part of the "Democracy and the Informed Citizen” Initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The initiative seeks to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry. We thank the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this initiative and the Pulitzer Prizes for their partnership.
Social Media hashtags: #HumCitizen #KyReads