Professor Sun Ra

Sir Andre Bemler

In the Spring of 1971 Herman “Sonny” Blount, aka Sun Ra, was artist-in-residence at the University of Califonia at Berkeley, where he offered a lecture course, variably described as African-American Studies 198, “The Black Man in the Universe”, or “The Black Man In the Cosmos,” or perhaps it was AAS 171. Apparently there was always some confusion regarding the course, and students had difficulty in picking up books from the required reading list, although one listing, The Source Book of Man’s Life and Death (i.e, The Bible, “King James”), whose author was listed as “God”, was available from “numerous” publishers.

Sun Ra

Supposedly enrollment was sparse, but the classes filled up anyway as folks wandered in off the streets, and Berkeley back then (and perhaps now) didn’t mind civilian walk-ins. Ra would lecture for the first part of the class, then treat everybody to keyboard solos, or perhaps Arkestra performances for the second half.

Pencils sharpened? Here’s what’s believed to be the sole existing recording of one of those lectures:

Sun Ra Berkeley lecture, 1971