Honoree Fanonne Jeffers

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers to give WriteAngles 2024 Keynote

The WriteAngles conference planning committee is delighted to announce that Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (Pictured above. Photo credit: Sydney A. Foster) will be the recipient of the second Abel Meeropol Social Justice Writing Award. Ms. Jeffers, author of The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, will accept the award at the April 6, 2024 conference, where she will give the keynote address.

The award finalists are Carmen Maria Machado, Shanta Lee, and Cameron Awkward-Rich.

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is a novelist, poet, essayist, and non-traditional scholar. She has published five books of poetry, including The Age of Phillis, based on fifteen years of archival research on the life and times of Phillis Wheatley Peters, a formerly enslaved person who was the first African American woman to publish a book. The Age of Phillis was longlisted for the National Book Award in Poetry, was a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Award, a finalist for the George Washington Prize in History, and won the NAACP Image Award for Literary Work: Poetry as well as the Lenore Marshall Prize in Poetry. The Age of Phillis was selected as “Best Poetry of 2020” by Library Journal and selected for “Best Books of 2020” by NPR.

The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois Cover - Honoree Fanonne JeffersJeffers’s sixth book and first novel, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club, longlisted for the National Book Award in Fiction, nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Literary Work: Debut, and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction, and for the Kirkus Prize. Love Songs was included on President Barack Obama’s Book Recommendations for 2021 and included in “Ten Best Books of 2021” of The Boston Globe, Kirkus Review, The New York Times, People, NPR, The Washington Post, TIME, and over fifty other periodicals in 2021. Love Songs won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in Fiction, and the First Novelist’s Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, was selected as a “Book All Georgians Should Read” and was chosen for a “National Day of Racial Healing” book by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Jeffers is the recipient of the USA Mellon fellowship, as well as fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Aspen Summer Words Conference, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, MacDowell Colony, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Witter Bynner Foundation through the Library of Congress. A native southerner, Jeffers is currently the Paul and Carol Daube Sutton Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma.

The Abel Meeropol Social Justice Writing Award honors Abel Meeropol, poet, songwriter, and playwright, best known for his song, “Strange Fruit,” which was made famous by Billie Holiday. Royalties from “Strange Fruit” support this award, which was given in 2017 to poet Patricia Smith.

Here’s a poem by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers:

The Prophetess Sojourner Truth Discusses the Two Different Versions of Her Most Well-Known Speech, One Nearly Unknown and One Very Beloved Yet Mostly Untrue

I believe that white lady
meant well, but she took liberties
with my story.
There was a pint,
and I am a woman,
but I never did bear
thirteen young.
There was an audience,
and I did stand.
At first, hesitant, but then,
speaking God’s clear
consonants in a voice
that all might hear, not
with apostrophes feeding
on the ends of my words.
And I am six feet tall,
and some might say, broader
than any man.
And I was a slave.
And my child was taken
from me, though I fought
to get him back.
And I did work hard.
And I did suffer long.
And I did find the Lord
and He did keep
me in His bony-chested embrace.
And if I showed you my hands,
instead of hiding them in my sleeves
or in a ball of yarn,
you could see my scars,
the surgery of bondage.
And I have traveled to and fro
to speak my Gospel-talk—
surely, I’ve got the ear of Jesus.
But I forgive that lying woman,
because craving is a natural sin.
She needed somebody
like me to speak for her,
and behave the way
she imagined I did,
so she could imagine
herself as a northern mistress.
And there I was,
dark and old,
soon to fold my life
into Death’s greedy hand.
And in this land,
and in this time,
somebody who could never
shout her down.

Copyright © 2018 by Honorée Fannone Jeffers. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Click here to view the WriteAngles Conference 2024 Program

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