Lift Every Voice

September 1, 2020


Lift Every Voice: Why African American Poetry Matters

This October, the UW Libraries is partnering with the Albany County Public Library to offer a series of programs to foster an appreciation of African American poetry. UW Libraries received two grants to celebrate African American poetry and culture from the Library of America’s Lift Every Voice project and a Wyoming Humanities Council Spark grant.

The events provided by the UW Libraries will all be virtual, free, and available to residents throughout Wyoming and the region.

Lift Every Voice: Why African American Poetry Matters is a national public humanities program dedicated to enhancing appreciation of the extraordinary range and richness of the 250-year-long African American poetic tradition. Its principal objective is to engage participants in a multifaceted exploration of the tradition, the perspectives it offers on American history and the struggle for racial justice, and the universality of its imaginative response to the personal experiences of African Americans over three centuries. 

Virtual Programs
Live captioning or transcription will be available during each virtual event
Mon., Oct. 5 at 2 p.m. | The Historical and Cultural Significance of the Famous Song: Lift Every Voice and Sing

Dr. Timothy Askew will discuss the song by James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson. African American educational, political, and cultural leaders have contributed to the reception of this song. He will explore the issue of how the song offers a window in understanding the political and social consciousness of African Americans in each decade of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries—historically and culturally.

Watch on Zoom
Friday, October 9 at 7 p.m. | UW Black Studies Center presents Find Your Voice: Youth Poetry Slam

Come tell your story in verse! Enjoy an evening of poetry written by students. Prizes will be available for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place -- 1st prize of $25 Amazon gift card, 2nd prize of $20 Amazon gift card, and 3rd prize of $10 Amazon gift card. Sign-ups limited to youth: middle school, high school, and college students. Complete the registration form to sign-up to participate in the Poetry Slam. Deadline extended: Thursday, October 8 at 8 a.m.

Participant Registration Form | Deadline extended: Thursday, October 8 at 8 a.m.
Watch on Zoom

Sun., 10/11 - Sat., 10/17 | Albany County Library's Lift Every Voice Children and Young Adult programs

We’ve partnered up with Albany County Public Library to host additional programs in line with our Life Every Voice: Why African American Poetry Matters programs. They will be hosting children’s storytimes featuring books and songs of African American verse and music. Their teen book club will also be reading the graphic novel March by John Lewis. More information available at Albany County Public Library.

Thursday, October 15 at 2 p.m. | Café of Poetry Readings

This is a family-friendly event that harkens to the intellectual salons of the Harlem Renaissance as well as the musical soirees of the 1920s. There will be readings of African American poetry, the 1700s to contemporary, along with cultural and historical contextualizing of the poems. Musical performance by the Laramie High School Jazz Choir will accompany us throughout the event that will be hosted by Dr. Fredrick Douglass Dixon.

Tuesday, October 20 at 4:30 p.m. | Poetry Sucks Panel Discussion

Dr. Fredrick Douglass Dixon, Dr. Caskey Russell, and graduate student Nicole Foss will serve as panel members with moderator Dr. Scott Henkel. This panel will provide a fun yet educational response to those who believe poetry is hard to read and hard to understand. Panelists will share their experiences and show audiences how to love (or at least like) poetry more. This panel also offers those who already love poetry an opportunity to share their experiences as well. This event will contextualize the history of African American poetry and foster a better understanding of this genre.

Watch on Zoom

Tuesday, October 27 at 6:30 p.m. | Camille T. Dungy Poetry Reading

Award-winning poet, Camille T. Dungy will share her work in a reading. Dungy, who edited the first anthology of nature poetry by well-known African American poets, is noted for her own breath-taking poetry that explores nature, love, and African American survival and is an African American poet in the Rocky Mountain region.

Watch on Zoom

About our performers and speakers: 

Camille T. Dungy 

Camille T. Dungy is the author of four collections of poetry: Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan UP, 2017); Smith Blue (Southern Illinois UP, 2011) winner of the 2010 Crab Orchard Open Book Prize; Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010) winner of the American book award in 2010; and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006)  

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Camille T. Dungy
Photo credit:  Beowulf Sheehan

Her debut collection of personal essays, Guidebook to Relative Strangers (W. W. Norton, 2017) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.  As a working mother whose livelihood as a poet-lecturer depended on travel, Camille Dungy crisscrossed America with her infant, then toddler, intensely aware of how they are seen, not just as mother and child, but as black women. The Kirkus Review noted of this lyrical memoir, “Each essay flows smoothly into the next, and they are all interlinked with themes of race, fear, joy, and love, bringing readers eye to eye with the experiences of being a black female poet, lecturer, mother, and woman. Forthright, entertaining, often potent essays that successfully intertwine personal history and historical context regarding black and white in America.”  

Dungy is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Sustainable Arts Foundation, The Diane Middlebrook Residency Fellowship of the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and other organizations. Her poems and essays have been published in Best American Poetry, The 100 Best African American Poems, nearly thirty other anthologies, and over one hundred print and online journals.  

Dungy is currently University Distinguished Professor in the English Department at Colorado State University.  

Dr. Timothy Askew
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Dr. Timothy Askew

Dr. Timothy Almon Askew holds a B.A. degree from Morehouse College, Summa Cum Laude with Phi Beta Kappa distinction as a junior-year inductee.  He received a master’s degree at Yale University.    Dr. Askew was an NCEA Doctoral Fellow in the English Department at the University of South Florida. Pursuing an interdisciplinary degree in American Studies and focusing on American Literature and American Music,  he received his  Ph.D. at Emory University and had the distinction of being the first Ph.D. Marshal at the University. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including a 4-year Academic Scholarship, Morehouse College; Readers Digest Foundation Scholar, Morehouse College; University Fellowships, Yale University; National Consortium for Educational Access Doctoral Fellowship, The University of South Florida; University Fellowships, Emory University; The United Negro College Fund Dissertation Fellowship; Teacher of the Year, Clark Atlanta University; The N.A.A.C.P.  Image Award for Excellence in Teaching English, Clark Atlanta University; National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar.    

Dr. Askew was the Atlanta Public Library “Lift Every Voice and Sing” Centennial Celebration Speaker at Georgia State University and has been featured in the Atlanta Constitution and the Houston, Texas newspaper African American News for his research on the song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”    

Dr. Askew is a tenured Full Professor of English and Humanities at Clark Atlanta University. He is the Founding President of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society at Clark Atlanta University and a Sustaining Member of Phi Beta Kappa.  He is the author of Cultural Hegemony and African American Patriotism:  An Analysis of the Song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and Refreshing the American Literary Canon, both by Linus Publications, New York.  Dr. Askew is the 2017 C. Eric Lincoln Scholar at Clark Atlanta University, one of the highest honors bestowed on a professor at the university. On May 22, 2019, Dr. Askew received the highest honor bestowed on a faculty member at Clark Atlanta University, the Aldridge/McMillan Award for overall excellence in teaching, research, and service. Dr. Askew was named a Mellon Scholar, February 2020.  

Dr. Fredrick Douglass Dixon
Director, Black Studies Center and Assistant Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies

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Dr. Fredrick Douglass Dixon

A native Chicagoan, Fredrick Douglass Dixon, is an educator and community advocate. Prof. Dixon directs the University of Wyoming's Black Studies Center and is an Assistant Professor in the African American and Diaspora Studies Department. For the past decade, he has hosted a successful, public-access television program that centers and examines the accurate history of blacks in America titled, The First Amendment: Historically Speaking. As his indispensable duty, Prof. Dixon remains devoted to providing successful pathways for access, matriculation, and graduation for the most at-risk student populations. His commitment to connecting academia with the broader community includes working with several national academic and grassroots organizations, including the National Council for Black Studies and The Black Doctoral Network. A quote from Prof. Dixon shows his depth and purpose, "The  thrust of my existence is to elevate the whole of the community, particularly black students to higher levels of academic excellence."

Program sponsors and partners:   

          UW Libraries logo       Lift Every Voice logo        Wyoming Humanities Council logo    Albany County Public Library  


Laramie High School Jazz Choir 



University of Wyoming Libraries

Dept. 3334

1000 E. University Ave. 

Laramie, WY 82071

(307) 766-3190

(800) 442-6757

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