University of Kansas Project Will Examine the Impact of Black Poetry on Social Change

The Project on the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas will examine the poetry of the civil rights movement and its impact on social change. The project, supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), will fund an institute on the University of Kansas campus next summer entitled “Black Poetry After the Black Arts Movement.” The event, which will be held from July 19 to August 1, will bring 25 NEH Summer Scholars to Lawrence to study Black poetry with university and visiting faculty.

Maryemma-Graham-thumbMaryemma Graham, University Distinguished Professor of English and founder and director of the Project on the History of Black Writing, says that “in the 1960s, if you think about the country as a whole, this is probably the busiest period for social change. One way of measuring what’s happening is in the products. Poetry is certainly an art form, but in this case, poetry is also a product.”

“The institute is our way of breaking free of prescriptive readings and the critical invisibility that limit our teaching and our ongoing scholarship,” Dr. Graham added. “Often it is black poets who show us an image of a different world, one we must look at.”

Professor Graham, who holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University, is the co-editor of The Cambridge History of African American Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

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