“Literary Activists of the Indignant Generation”
February 10, 2011; 6:30 p.m.
E.O. Jackson Auditorium
Academic Complex Building (AB1)
1638 Bedford Ave.
Medgar Evers College, CUNY
Brooklyn, NY 11225
The program “Literary Activists of the Indignant Generation” is designed to help bridge the past, present, and future of the literature produced by Black writers throughout the African Diaspora. Our distinguished panelists will lead us in an informative discussion on the works of African-American writers including John Oliver Killens, Richard Wright, Claude McKay, Dorothy West, Sterling Brown, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ann Petry, Chester Himes, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Amiri Baraka among others.
Keith Gilyard, author of John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism, and Lawrence P. Jackson, author of The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934–1960, will discuss the inspiration behind their works that are centered on important African-American writers and a period in Black literary history in which those writers made critical but oftentimes overlooked contributions. The discussion will be moderated by Shelly Eversley, associate professor of English specializing in twentieth century American and African-American literature and culture as well as gender, sexuality, and visual studies at Baruch College.
Keith Gilyard, distinguished professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, has written the first major biography of John Oliver Killens, a novelist, dramatist, screenwriter and activist who was an influential force from the 1950s to 1980s. Killens’s novels And Then We Heard the Thunder and The Cotillion; or One Good Bull Is Half the Herd were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His works of fiction and nonfiction, the most famous of which is his novel Youngblood, have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Killens is considered the spiritual father of the Black Arts Movement. He was writer-in-residence at Medgar Evers College and was the visionary for hosting the National Black Writers Conferences at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York.
Gilyard is also the author of several works including Liberation Memories: The Rhetoric and Poetics of John Oliver Killens (Wayne State University Press, 2003) and Poemographies (Whirlwind Press, 2001). He has also edited books on rhetoric, composition, race and ethnicity.
Lawrence P. Jackson, professor of English and African American Studies at Emory University, has written a comprehensive work on African-American writers from the 1930s through 1960. His critical work The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934–1960 provides readers with a context for understanding the social, cultural and political landscape as well as the issues raised and challenges faced by the “indignant generation” of writers during the Jim Crow period, Great Depression and the international wave of decolonization. We witness and read about writers who were writing constantly but who, because they did not address certain subjects, were marginalized from the American literary landscape. Jackson has presented a well-researched and detailed account of the African-American literature conversations, journals, books, and scholars in this period.
Jackson is also the author of Ralph Ellison: Emergence of a Genius (University of Georgia Press, 2007) and a forthcoming biography of Chester Himes.
Shelly Eversley is associate professor of English at Baruch College, City University of New York, where she teaches African-American literature and culture. She earned her B.A. in English at Columbia College, Columbia University, and her doctorate in English at The Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of The “Real” Negro: The Question of Authenticity in Twentieth Century African American Literature (Routledge, 2004); editor of The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, The African (Modern Library, 2004); and with Jennifer L. Morgan, editor of The Sexual Body, a special issue of WSQ (Spring 2007). She is currently working on Integration and Its Discontents: Black American Writing, 1944–1967, which explores the legacy and the complications of racial integration on writing by African-Americans in the United States and abroad. Her work has been published in, among others, American Literary History, the Minnesota Review, NKA: A Journal of Contemporary African Art, and The Cambridge Companion to Ralph Ellison.
Funding for this literary program is made possible with support from the Black, Latino and Asian American Caucus of the New York State Legislature.