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Don't Deny My Voice: Reading and Teaching African-American Poetry

Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 4, 2013

A three-week institute for twenty-five college and university faculty on African-American poetry and poetics.

Project director Maryemma Graham, a professor of English at the University of Kansas (KU), investigates African-American poetry from the early twentieth century to the present in this summer program. The approach moves "from social context and ideology to the texts and poetics," allowing the project "to generate new ways and new critical tools for reading, teaching, and interpreting a range of black poetries." Lorenzo Thomas's Don't Deny My Name: Words and Music and the Black Intellectual Tradition is read in its entirety before the institute begins.  The program is divided into three week-long segments. The first week, on traditions in Black poetry, 1900-1960, including modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, is led by Jerry Ward (English, Dillard University) and Joanne Gabbin (English, James Madison University). The second week, on the aesthetics and production of Black poetry during the Black Arts era from 1960 to 1980, is conducted by Howard Ramsby II (Black studies, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville). The third week, on African-American poetry, 1980-present, is led by Tony Bolden (African American Studies, KU). A central theme of the institute, the relationship between oral and written poetry, is particularly prominent during the third week, as the group investigates contemporary works. Numerous poets are to be studied, including Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson, Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, Robert Hayden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Rita Dove, Natasha Tretheway, Terrance Hayes, and Nikky Finney. The institute meets five days a week for lectures, discussions, group collaborative work on research and curricular projects, panel presentations, and multimedia/digital presentations of poetry. In addition to the weekly session leaders, there are shorter presentations by twelve visiting literature faculty members, including Aldon Nielsen (Penn State University), J. Edgar Tidwell (English, KU), R. Baxter Miller (University of Georgia), Opal Moore (Spelman College), Adam Bradley (University of Colorado), and Meta DuEwa Jones (University of Texas, Austin). In addition to reading poetry throughout the institute, participants study selected criticism, much of it by institute faculty. In the fall following the institute, there are follow-up online sessions with prominent African-American poets, including Giovanni, Hayes, and Dove.

Faculty: Tony Bolden, Adam Bradley, Joanne Gabbin, Anthony Grooms, Joseph Harrington, William Joe Harris, Meta DuEwa Jones, Jill Kuhnheim, , R. Baxter Miller, Opal Moore, Tracie Morris, Aldon Nielsen, Howard Rambsy II, J. Edgar Tidwell, Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Special guests include:  Rita Dove, Nikki Giovanni, Terrance Hayes, Liegh McInnis, E. Ethelbert Miller, Ishmael Reed, Natasha Tretheway



Dates: July 14–August 3 (3 weeks)
Director(s): Maryemma Graham, University of Kansas
Grantee Institutions: University of Kansas
Location: Lawrence, KS

About NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in Summer Seminars and Institutes. Each NEH Summer Seminar includes sixteen participants working in collaboration with one or two leading scholars. Participants have access to a major research collection, with time reserved to pursue individual projects.

Amount of Award

NEH Summer Scholars are awarded fixed stipends to help cover travel costs, books and other research expenses, and living expenses. Stipend amounts are based on the length of the NEH Summer Seminar or Institute: $2,100 (2 weeks), $2,700 (3 weeks), $3,300 (4 weeks), $3,900 (5 weeks), or $4,500 (6 weeks).


NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes are designed primarily for teachers of American undergraduate students. Qualified independent scholars and those employed by museums, libraries, historical societies, and other organizations may be eligible to compete provided they can effectively advance the teaching and research goals of the project.

You may request information about as many projects as you like, but you may apply to no more than two NEH Summer Programs (seminars, institutes, or Landmarks workshops) and you may attend only one.

Please note:

Adjunct faculty, community college faculty and first-time participants are encouraged to apply.

Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are reserved for current full-time graduate students in the humanities.

How to Apply

For more information and application instructions, please visit the program website listed above.