Toni Morrison, Bernice Johnson Reagon and Sonia Sanchez
“Black Women and the Arts in the 21st Century”
7:00 -9:30 p.m.
Mullins Center, UMass Amherst
AMHERST, Mass. – An event featuring three prominent African-American artists — Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, singer and social activist Bernice Johnson Reagon and poet and playwright Sonia Sanchez (originally scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 13) has been rescheduled for March 10th from 7-9:30 p.m. in the Mullins Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Toni Morrison, Bernice Johnson Reagon and Sonia Sanchez to Discuss
‘Black Women and the Arts in the 21st Century’ at UMass Amherst
AMHERST, Mass. – Three prominent African-American artists — Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, singer and social activist Bernice Reagon Johnson and poet and playwright Sonia Sanchez — will share the stage in a public conversation about “Black Women in the Arts in the 21st Century” on March 10th from 7-9:30 p.m. in the Mullins Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Hosted by the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst, the event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:15 p.m.
The program, which is part of the annual celebration of Black History Month, will feature the three women sharing their views and thoughts on topics such as the importance of the artist in society, the changing role of the black female artist and the contribution of the artist in defining what it means to be human in the 21st century.
The evening’s program also will include musical selections by The New Africa House Ensemble, the Voices of New Africa Choir directed by Evelyn Harris, and a guest performance by composer and saxophonist Frederick Tillis, director emeritus of the UMass Fine Arts Center.
Toni Morrison, is the author of ten novels including most recently “Home” (2012) and “A Mercy” (2008). In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. In 1988 she won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for “Beloved,” which was adapted into a film starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. In 2006, The New York Times named “Beloved” the best American novel of the previous 25 years. The earlier novels that established Morrison as a major figure in American literature include “The Bluest Eye,” “Sula,” “Jazz,” and “The Song of Solomon”. A native of Lorain, Ohio, Morrison is a graduate of Howard University and holds an M.A. in English from Cornell University. During her long career, she has been a book editor, children’s author, playwright and the author of “Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination” an insightful commentary on American culture. She taught at several universities and colleges, including Rutgers, the State University of New York, and Princeton from which she retired in 2006. She has received numerous other awards and honorary degrees. In 2012, Morrison was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.
Bernice Johnson Reagon grew up in Georgia and attended Albany State College, where she became active in the local NAACP chapter and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). After her expulsion because of an arrest for civil rights activism, she briefly attended Spelman College, then joined the Freedom Singers, a choral group that toured the country to raise money for SNCC’s civil rights campaign. She completed her undergraduate degree at Spelman College in 1970 and a Ph.D. in History at Howard University in 1975. Reagon formed Sweet Honey in the Rock, an all-African-American women a cappella group in 1973. The ensemble earned an international reputation for its sophisticated harmonies, socially conscious repertoire and captivating performances. Reagon’s voice can be heard on several solo CD’s as well as those of Sweet Honey in the Rock. Reagon retired from the group in 2004. In 1974 Reagon began work at the Smithsonian Institution as a cultural historian and later as a curator at the National Museum of American History. In 1989 she was the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship. She produced “Wade in the Water,” a 26-hour, Peabody Award-winning radio series sponsored by the Smithsonian and National Public Radio was later issued on four CD’s. She was appointed to the faculty of American University in 1993, retiring in 2003. Reagon is the author of “We’ll Understand it Better By and By: Pioneering African American Gospel Composers,” “If You Don’t Go, Don’t Hinder Me: the African American Sacred Song Tradition,” and “We Who Believe in Freedom: Sweet Honey in the Rock…Still on the Journey”.
Poet, playwright, professor, activist and one of the leaders of the Black Arts and Black studies movements, Sonia Sanchez was born in Alabama, but raised in Harlem by her schoolteacher father. She earned a B.A. from Hunter College and attended graduate school at New York University. At San Francisco State College, she developed one of the first courses on African-American women’s literature. In 1969, Sanchez published her first book of poetry for adults, “Homecoming.” She followed that up with “We a BaddDDD People,” which especially focused on African-American vernacular as a poetic medium. At about the same time her first plays, “Sister Son/ji” and “The Bronx Is Next,” were being produced or published. In 1971, she published her first work for children, “It’s A New Day: Poems for Young Brothas and Sistuhs.” The author of 17 books of poetry, Sanchez has also edited collections of poetry and short stories. In 1985, “Homegirls and Handgrenades” won the American Book Award. Sanchez taught at Manhattan Community College, Amherst College where she was instrumental in establishing the major in Black Studies, and Temple University, where she was the first Presidential Fellow. Her honors and awards include the PEN Writing Award, the American Book Award for Poetry, the National Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the National Education Association Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pew Arts Foundation as well as numerous honorary degrees. From 2011-2013, Sanchez served as the first Poet Laureate of the City of Philadelphia. She is the co-editor with UMass Professors John H. Bracey and James Smethurst of “‘SOS Calling All Black People:’ A Black Arts Movement Reader” forthcoming from UMass Press in May, 2014, and the subject of the Sonia Sanchez Reader edited by John H. Bracey and Jacqueline Wood of the University of Missouri, Kansas City to be published by Duke University Press.
The program is supported by UMass Amherst’s Chancellor’s Office, College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success, Student Activities and Involvement, University Programming Council, Residential Life, Black Student Union, Black Mass Communication Project, Student Government Association and the History Department.
(Poster designed by Jason Hendrickson, Ph.D. candidate)
Photo by Ed Cohen
New England Regional Student Program (NERP)
Afro-American Studies Majors Qualify from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
The NERP allows students from the six New England states, who are enrolled in certain programs not offered by their home-state public college or universities, to pay a reduced tuition rate. Not all programs are available in the NERP at UMass.
See the Registrar's Office for details.
Check out our Department News & Events Page for more....
On the evening of January 4, 2013 William Cronon, President of the American Historical Association, awarded the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies with the AHA's Institutional Equity Award for its training and placing of minority historians in the academy. Manisha Sinha, Graduate Program Director and the Jobs Placement Officer of the department for its History-Politics track accepted the award on behalf of the department.
Established over 40 years ago, the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is one of the oldest African American Studies departments in the country. In 1996, this department established a pioneering doctoral program in African American Studies, emphasizing solid disciplinary training in history. As one of the referees highlighted: "Not only was this doctoral program one of the first in the country but it has since its founding graduated a record number of minority students who have gone on to tenure track positions in history throughout the country." As one graduate of the department noted, "I learned how to think like a historian and how to be a historian in the academy....Not only did I receive great mentorship, but the graduate program also encouraged me to mentor others, including undergraduate students whom I taught."
This prize is given to recognize individuals and institutions that have achieved excellence in recruiting and retaining underrepresented racial and ethnic groups into the historical profession. The Department will be recognized during the awards ceremony at the Annual Meeting in New Orleans. You can find information on the AHA's web site, at www.historians.org/annual
The November 2012 newsletter of the Organization of American Historians has a brief article, accompanied by a pie chart, that begins as follows: "African American history topics were the most popular for the OAH Distinguished Lectureship Program during the 2011-2012,accounting for nearly a quarter of all lectures given." We are glad that there is such an interest in African American history. We also must acknowledge that the need for scholars in this field is not being met by the full time faculty at many of the institutions requesting guest lecturers. Our department will continue to do our part in producing first rate graduates who will be available as openings occur. Professors John Bracey, a Life Member of the OAH since 1964, and Manisha Sinha have served as Distinguished Lecturers for several years.
*Click on chart for pdf version.
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W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies
329 New Africa House
180 Infirmary Way, UMass Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003
Phone: (413) 545- 2751
Fax: (413) 545-0628