The History of Black Writing Timeline
The Project of the History of Black Writing 1983-Present
Dr. Maryemma Graham Creates the Computer Assisted Analysis of Black Literature (CAABL) Now Known as the Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW).
The project grew out of the development of the Computer Assisted Analysis of Black Literature (CAABL) at the University of Mississippi, a Black literary research tool that received its first two grants from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) the same year. The project would later be known as the Afro-American Novel Project (AANP) at the University of Mississippi by Dr. Maryemma Graham.
The Afro-American Novel: A Guide for Teachers and Students is published.
AANP publishes the culmination of its first research project in creating a comprehensive teaching aide titled The Afro-American Novel: A Guide for Teachers and Students.
Mississippi's Native Son: Richard Wright Conference and Symposium" held at the University of Mississippi.
With funding from the NEH, AANP host the Richard Wright Conference & Symposium "Mississippi's Native Son" at the University of Mississippi on the 25th anniversary of Wright’s death.
The Ford Foundation and NEH help to fund The Project's expansion.
First grant from the Ford Foundation which enabled the writing of the first federally funded grant,"The Afro-American Novel Project: Building a Database for African American Literature."
Letter dated: February 28, 1989 to Maryemma Graham.
"I am writing to remind you that in accordance with the terms of the Foundation's grant of $50,000 to The University of Mississippi for support for the Afro-American Novel Project, an interim narrative report was to be submitted to the Foundation for the period ended December 14, 1988. This report should provide a narrative summary of what was accomplished by the expenditure of grant funds.
Please inform us as to whom we may expect to receive this report. If you have any questions please call me at (212) 573-5210.
By copy of this letter I would like to acknowledge receipt of the interim financial report and the completed Request for Grant Payment Form submitted with Richard D. Douglas' letter of February 16, 1989 to Diane Galloway. The report has been reviewed by the appropriate staff and found in good order, and the payment request has been processed.
Michele Cole - Grant Administrator"
The Afro-American Novel Project Relocates to Northeastern University.
Project founder Dr. Maryemma Graham moves to Boston to begin teaching at Northeastern University. This move allowed the Project to complement the focus on Southern regional writing with Northern regional writing and expanding the project's research archive.
The American Antiquarian Society and AANP present: “African American Holdings in the American Antiquarian Society” Exhibit.
AANP partners with the American Antiquarian Society to curate the exhibit “African American Holdings in the American Antiquarian Society” with an accompanying exhibit catalog.
The inaugural edition of the Richard Wright Society Newsletter is published.
HBW creates the Richard Wright society to provide a forum for an international community of scholars, teachers, and readers of Richard Wright to engage with his work, keep up-to-date on recent publications, and organize events centering on his work and legacy.
AANP changes its name to the Project on the History of Black Writing.
The African American Novel Project (AANP) officially changes its name to the Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW) while housed at Northeastern University, reflecting the broader scope and new goals for the project including a renewed emphasis on digital humanities.
HBW receives NEH funding for multi-year series of summer institutes.
HBW receives first funding to host a 4-part series of professional development summer institutes on African American Literature.
HBW Launches “Teaching African American Literature: From Phillis Wheatley to Toni Morrison, Part I and II” summer institute.
HBW organizes its first NEH Summer Institute entitled “African American Literature from Phillis Wheatley to Toni Morrison: Part I and Part II” at Northeastern University.
The "Middle Passage: The Making of the Atlantic World (Part I)" summer institute is held.
HBW organizes the third installment of the NEH Summer Institute co-sponsored by the Association of African American Life and History entitled “Middle Passage: The Making of the Atlantic World: Part I”.
The Lemelson Foundation invests in HBW.
The Project receives funding from the Lemelson Foundation for Innovation and Invention in Higher Education towards the creation of "Neither Bond Nor Free: An Anthology of Rare African American Texts." This CD-ROM project served as the prototype for the first fully digitized novel from the HBW collection.
The "Middle Passage: The Making of the Atlantic World (Part II)" summer institute is held at Howard University.
With funding from the NEH and in affiliation with the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History and the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH), HBW organizes its fourth Summer Institute entitled “The Middle Passage: The Making of the Atlantic World: Part II” at Howard University. Tom Feelings was a special guest of the institute.
Teaching African American Literature: Theory and Practice is published.
As a result of two NEH grants and a series of professional development institutes, HBW publishes and edits its third book, Teaching African American Literature, Theory and Practice (Routledge), a collection of essays written by the NEH summer institute participants.
HBW moves to the University of Kansas.
The Project on the History of Black Writing is established at the University of Kansas, where it remains today.
HBW hosts multiple oral workshops at KU
In spring 2000, the Project introduced the Oral History Workshop (OHW), after securing a small grant from KU’s Hall Center for the Humanities. The program was so successful that the workshop has been repeated each year since. In 2003 the workshop officially became part of the Hall Center’s programming. HBW staff remain actively involved and have played a key role in the development of oral history at the University of Kansas. Further plans are being made by the Hall Center to expand the workshop to a summer institute. The community has taken the lessons from the workshop to heart and in 2002, a group of women founded the Black Women’s Oral History Group, whose mission is to record the history of the African American experience in Lawrence. The idea has spread to other communities and regular meetings are held of the original women’s group and the expanded group, representing both the Native American and Mexican American communities. Oral history at KU and Lawrence is here to stay.
Encarta Africana 2000: The Library of Black America is published.
With funding from Microsoft, HBW identified the novels for inclusion novel section in Encarta Africana 2000: The Library of Black America, a multimedia CD-ROM edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
The Langston Hughes Centennial Conference.
HBW and the Langston Hughes National Poetry Project host the Langston Hughes Centennial Conference, “Let America Be America Again: An International Symposium on the Art, Life & Legacy of Langston Hughes,” the largest ever conference devoted to Hughes’s life and work. It is the first event of HBW's Langston Hughes National Poetry Project funded by the NEH, the Alfred A. Knopf Foundation, and the Academy of American Poets.
HBW turns 20 years old and publishes The Cambridge Companion to the African American Novel.
HBW begins a long-term partnership with Cambridge University Press and publishes The Cambridge Companion to the African American Novel, edited by Project Director Dr. Maryemma Graham and Project Co-founder Dr. Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
"Language Matters" Teaching Initiative commences.
HBW hosts the first installment of the Language Matters Teaching Initiative, organized in tandem with the Toni Morrison Society in Washington, D. C.
HBW Goes Digital.
HBW board members approve Project Digital Initiative (PDI) expanding HBW’s digital research, including a overhaul of the website, digitization for seminars, and the creation of a PDI coordinator position. This initiative aimed to create a digital library of information and materials accessible to students, teachers, and community educators.
"Making the Wright Connection" Summer Seminar.
HBW hosts the “Making the Wright Connection” Summer Seminar at the University of Kansas focusing on exploring new ways to read and teach Richard Wright’s work.
"Reading and Teaching Toni Morrison in Translation" - the final Language Matters Teaching Symposium.
HBW holds the fourth and final installment of the Language Matters Teaching Initiative entitled “Reading and Teaching Toni Morrison in Translation” in Paris, France, held in conjunction with the 6th Biennial Conference of the Toni Morrison Society.
HBW expands national visibility with launch of online blog.
HBW launches its online blog focusing on Black literary history, contemporary developments in the production of black writing, digital humanities, and literary scholarship on Black writers as a part of HBW's increasing commitment to public engagement.
Haiti Research Initiative organized by HBW goes on a fact finding mission and publishes Faces of Haiti.
In 2010, Haiti was hit with a devastating earthquake that left the country in pieces struggling to rebuild. As a result, KU supported KU scholars to travel to Haiti as a part of the Haiti Research Initiative to work with grassroots organizations, government officials, civic leaders and scholars to help rebuild Haiti. The group’s focus was to understand the impact of the earthquake. The group published The Faces of Haiti: Resolute in Reform, Resistance, and Recovery.
The Black Literary Suite (BLS), a new HBW digital initiative for public engagement is introduced.
HBW Black Literary Suites are created in order to educate the larger community on lesser-known Black figures in literature and art while simultaneously allowing project members to refine and strengthen their research and public programming skills. Each BLS culminates in an exhibit with an accompanying digital component and public events in order to encourage engagement with Black writers.
Early "Black Literary Suite" exhibits.
The early Black Literary Suites HBW presents provided a forum to share its research and curatorial work with the public, and HBW was especially productive in the first year of the BLS inception. The BLS exhibit “Black Literary Suite: New York Edition” is held in the fall of 2011; "Black Literary Suite: Wikipedia Edition" was held in the spring of 2012; and "Histories of African American Short Stories: A Digital Humanities Exhibit" is held in fall of 2012.
HBW launches reprint series: Drum Voices by Eugene Redmond and poetry volumes by Allan Polite
In 2012, HBW recovers and reprints Allen Polite’s poems. This recovery work allows for the visibility of Polite’s significant literary and artistic contributions as an artist abroad. In recovering his work, HBW has also examined his global appeal and cultural expression as a Black writer, though Polite believed “Each is an artist first and has no flags in his pocket.”
HBW partners with the University of Chicago to pilot new digital project.
Building upon graduate student initiatives, HBW creates a more aggressive program for digital projects through a partnership with University of Chicago. This was Precursor to the Black Book Interactive Project, an NEH-funded collaborative research project that seeks to increase the number of Black-authored texts in the study of digital humanities.
The Project on the History of Black Writing celebrates its 30th Anniversary with new, signature programming.
The inaugural GEMS Initiative was established in order to continue HBW's public literacy initiative. The first GEMS focuses on Mari Evans and HBW Staff members traveled to interview Mari Evans to create the first GEMS video that highlights Evans’s life and work.
NEH supports two summer institutes on Black poetry.
HBW organizes and hosts NEH Summer Institutes on Black poetry in partnership with the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University. “Don't Deny My Voice I: Reading and Teaching African American Poetry” is held in 2013 and "Don't Deny My Voice II: Black Poetry After the Black Arts Movement" is held in 2015.
"GEMS: The Life and Work of Eugene Redmond" goes live.
HBW creates its second GEMS Initiative focusing on the work of Eugene Redmond. HBW staffers travel to interview Redmond and create a video on his life and work.
The Black Book Interactive Project (BBIP) secures funding from NEH.
BBIP combines all major components of HBW's mission: development, digital humanities, and collaborative research. With initial funding from NEH-ODH, BBIP develops a metadata scheme that accounts for race.
HBW publishes its third GEMS Project.
HBW creates its third GEMS Initiative focusing on the work of John A Williams. HBW staffers travel to interview Williams and create a video on his life and work.
"Black Poetry After the Black Arts Movement" Summer Institute at KU.
HBW organizes and hosts the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute “Black Poetry After the Black Arts Movement.”
HBW expands BLS focus to include literary and historical recovery work.
As the HBW further develops the BLS, the mission of the BLS expands to engage in historical and literary recovery work. HBW hosts the "Kansas Authors" BLS in spring 2015 followed by “Sports Figures with a Kansas Connection" in spring 2016.
Kevin Powell Presents at KU.
Acclaimed writer and activist Kevin Powell, discussed his memoir "The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey into Manhood "(2015). Powell spoke about the importance of education as a means to help eliminate many of the problems we face today, such as racism, sexism, and homophobia.
Beijing Foreign Studies University partnership.
HBW hosts two Beijing Foreign Studies University Summer Institute in 2016 and 2017. This program is designed to provide an introduction to American higher education and America’s culturally diverse heritage and expands HBW's international community. During these institutes, HBW and KU serve as sites for visiting PhD and postdoctoral scholars to research and expand their work.
"Black Literary Suite: Mississippi Renaissance."
The annual Black Literary Suite (BLS) further expands HBW's research focus in order to codify new literary knowledge through creating a new cohesive understanding of an understudied or lesser-known literary period of Black writing. HBW organizes and hosts the BLS “Mississippi Renaissance” in spring 2017 and "Reclaiming the Black Body: Women Writing Women" in fall 2017.
Nikki Giovanni Speaks at KU.
Nikki Giovanni, one of the most acclaimed poets to emerge from the Civil Rights Era and Black Arts Movement, visits the University of Kansas to present “Poetry: A New Conversation”.
BBIP receives funding from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).
With funding from the ACLS, the Black Book Interactive Project (BBIP) expands its reach to build new user communities to prepare a new generation of digital researchers and convenes two cohorts of the BBIP Scholars Program in 2019 and 2020, webinars and an on-site workshop
HBW releases its fourth GEMS project.
HBW's fourth GEMS Initiative focuses on the work of Naomi Long Madgett. Named Detroit’s poet laureate in 2001, Madgett authored several collections of poetry beginning in the 1940s. She was also the founder and editor of Lotus Press, which merged with Dudley Randall’s Broadside Press to become Broadside Lotus Press in 2015.
Black Literary Suite: Researching While Black
Unlike past Black Literary Suites, the 2019 BLS “Researching While Black: The Project on the History of Black Writing at 35 Years” focuses on the history and achievements of HBW itself. In this exhibit, viewers discover how HBW has grown from a small research unit at the University of Mississippi to a multi-project, research-driven, grant-funded organization. This BLS gives an in-depth overview of the creation and development of HBW’s primary research initiatives, including the Black Book Interactive Project (BBIP), the Black Literary Suite (BLS), the GEMS Initiative, and others. Beginning with its inception as the Afro-American Novel Project (AANP) in 1983, the 2019 BLS serves as the most comprehensive history of HBW’s accomplishments and serves as a guide for others to explore HBW’s work and thus the work of understudied Black writers as a whole.
Mass Incarceration Symposium
HBW hosts a Symposium on Mass Incarceration featuring a keynote address by Patrick E. Alexander, Prison-to-College Pipeline Program, MS; panel discussion with Jerry W. Ward, Orleans Justice Center, LA, Brian Daldorph, Douglas County Jail, KS, and Jennifer Wilmot, Criminalizing Girlhood Project; and reading and writing workshop with DaMaris B. Hill, author of A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing.
Black Literary Suite: Black Writing in "Reel" Time
Countless works by Black authors have found multiple lives through film adaptations, re-contextualizing the ways in which modern audiences can engage with these narratives. Film adaptations have brought renewed attention to works by Black authors expanding the discussion of a range of topics, including race, identify, coming of age, class conflict and Black love. Black film, like Black writing, gives us history, past and present, real and imagined.
Black Boy @ 75
Howard Rambsy presents a webinar on the 75th anniversary of the publication of Richard Wright’s autobiography Black Boy. At multiple points from 1945 to 2020, publishers sought to represent Black Boy to readers in ways that situated the book in different historical and aesthetic contexts. The varied editions display a body of bibliographic codes and visual cues that present us with important information concerning the production and reception of Wright’s work since its initial publication.
BBIP Partners with HathiTrust Research Center
With the support of a grant from the Mellon Foundation and in partnership with the HathiTrust Research Center, BBIP serves as the flagship collection in a project that aims to develop new methods for creating and analyzing digital collections, with an emphasis on content related to historically under-resourced and marginalized textual communities.
American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)
HBW presents Hurston on the Horizon: Past, Present, and Future, a three-week virtual institute for college and university teachers that focuses on Hurston’s impact on American literature and culture as an author, anthropologist, journalist, filmmaker, and precursor to the applied humanities. The institute’s study of Hurston also includes a fall First Friday series of public webinars featuring Hurston autobiographer Valerie Boyd, writer Tayari Jones, and scholar Lindsey Stewart, author of The Politics of Black Joy: Zora Neale Hurston and Neo-Abolitionism.
Founding director Maryemma Graham retires
University Distinguished Professor of English Maryemma Graham founded HBW at the University of Mississippi in 1983 as an extension of her own professional commitment to: literary recovery work in Black studies; book history and digital humanities; professional development and curriculum enhancement; and public literacy. In 1989, Graham and HBW moved to Northeastern University in Boston before finally finding their long-time home at the University of Kansas in 1999. Graham is the author or editor of ten books, including The Cambridge History of African American Literature (with Jerry W. Ward, Jr.). She has directed ten NEH-funded Summer Institutes to date including recent institutes on Richard Wright and on twentieth century African-American poetry. Graham has been celebrated at KU for her innovative teaching and research as well as her mentorship, advocacy, recruitment and development of both her students and fellow colleagues.
Ayesha Hardison new HBW director
With HBW Founding Director Maryemma Graham’s 2021 retirement, Ayesha Hardison stepped into the role of Director. Hardison is an Associate Professor of English and of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at KU. She is the award-winning author of Writing through Jane Crow, the editor of the multidisciplinary journal Women, Gender, and Families of Color, co-editor of the 2020 special issue of The Langton Hughes Review focused on a 2017 conference that she co-organized to mark the 80th anniversary of Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and director of the 2021 NEH Summer Institute Hurston on the Horizon: Past, Present, and Future.
BBIP Receives NEH Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Funding
A 2.5 year grant from NEH supports the digitization of 2,100 texts and the digital humanities training of two new cohorts of the BBIP Scholars Program in 2022 and 2023. With this NEH support, BBIP will be the most complete resource for project-based inquiries in African American fiction and serve as a model for bridging the digital divide in marginalized textual communities.
Mellon Foundation funds Black Literary Network
The Mellon Foundation funds the creation of the Black Literature Network with a 3-year grant. Four interrelated projects – a podcast series, a book recommendation resource, a data visualization gallery, and a keyword guide – will all be designed to illuminate aspects of African American novels. The Network will also include a program for undergraduates and graduate students to learn more about African American literary studies using technology.
BBIP Receives NEH Digital Humanities Advancement Grant
A grant from NEH supports BLACK DH, a 3-year project in community building that removes economic, social and technological barriers to digital humanities (DH) learning and provides space for dialogue, debate, advancing knowledge and generating public-facing scholarship. BLACK DH will focus on the use of Black materials to explore questions of humanity and diversity in American society through the increased involvement of those who remain outside the current DH network.
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