National Black Writers Conference

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The National Black Writers Conference (NBWC) is a yearly event dedicated to exploring "emerging themes, trends and issues in Black literature." It is hosted by The Center for Black Literature[1] at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York (CUNY). Bestselling author Walter Mosley has hailed the Conference as "the most significant gathering of Black writers in the country."


The National Black Writers Conference was initially conceived of in 1986 by the late author John Oliver Killens. The event has attracted an array of renowned writers and scholars, including Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Alice Walker, among others. The conference has explored themes such as "Stereotypes and Images in Black Literature" (1996) and "The Impact of Black Literature on Society" (2000). The event has previously been held in 1986, 1988, 1991, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2006.

Eleventh National Black Writers Conference[edit]

The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, hosted the Eleventh National Black Writers Conference (NBWC) from Thursday, March 29 through Sunday, April 1, 2012, on the college campus at 1650 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. Centered on the theme “The Impact of Migration, Popular Culture, and the Natural Environment in the Literature of Black Writers,” the 2012 Conference honored Kenyan-born writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, poet, novelist, essayist, and publisher Ishmael Reed, poet Nikki Giovanni, and Dr. Howard Dodson, the former director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

The 2012 conference included poetry presentations by South African Poet Laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile, award-winning poet Nikki Giovanni, and a conversation with author and broadcaster Tavis Smiley. Haki Madhubuti, Herb Boyd, Ron Daniels, and Michael Simanga engaged in a roundtable discussion and critical response to Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. The 2012 conference dedicated a day to screenings by Black filmmakers.

Among the participants of the 2012 NBWC were authors, poets, and publishers such as Haki Madhubuti, Sterling Plumpp, Tavis Smiley, Herb Boyd, Patricia Smith, Camille Dungy, Isabel Wilkerson, Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, Nnedi Okorafor, Lita Hooper, Rev. Conrad Tillard, William Jelani Cobb, R. Dwayne Betts, Maulana Karenga, Teju Cole, Bernice L. McFadden, Elizabeth Nunez, Karen Hunter, Sofia Quintero, Joan Morgan, Jeffery Renard Allen, Opal Palmer Adisa, Tiphanie Yanique, Darryl Pinckney, Robert Fleming, Sarah M. Broom, Anthony Grooms, Angela Dodson, Troy Johnson, Laura Pegram, Montague Kobbe, Joel Dreyfuss, Calvin Reid, Regina Brooks, JLove Calderon, Linda A. Duggins, Lisa C. Moore, Johnny Temple and Cheryl Woodruff.

Tenth National Black Writers Conference[edit]

Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison was the Honorary Chair for the Tenth National Black Writers Conference from March 26 to March 28, 2010. The conference was held on the Medgar Evers College campus in Brooklyn, NY. It featured discussions, youth workshops, talkshops, author readings and book signings.

The theme of the conference, And Then We Heard the Thunder: Black Writers Reconstructing Memories and Lighting the Way was taken from the title of the late African-American author (and former Medgar Evers professor) John Oliver Killens' novel on World War II. The conference drew upon the concepts of thunder, memory and light as metaphors for both the historical representation of the literature of Black authors and the representation of new and future directions for contemporary and emerging writers.

Toni Morrison is the author of over 16 works of fiction and non-fiction. Her works are known for their critical interrogations of America's past and its relations with Blacks in American culture. The New York Times named her recent novel, A Mercy, one of the 10 most notable books of 2008. Amiri Baraka, Kamau Brathwaite, and Dr. Edison O. Jackson were also honored for their impact on Black writing and culture.

Ninth National Black Writers Conference[edit]

The Ninth National Black Writers Conference, titled Black Writers: Reading and Writing to Transform Their Lives and the World, took place on Friday, March 28, 2008, through Sunday, March 30, 2008. The three-day event featured programs ranging from a roundtable on the impact of Hurricane Katrina and 911 on Black literature; to a Poetry Café showcasing slam artists and co-founders of the louderARTS Project, Roger Bonair-Agard and Lynne Procope; student poets and an open mic session; to talkshops on publishing, poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing; on to book signings; youth workshops; author readings and more. An array of vendors will be on display at the NBWC marketplace.

Among the participating scholars, poets, and publishers were Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, John Edgar Wideman, Jerry Ward, Brenda Marie Osbey, Asha Bandele, Thulani Davis, Quincy Troupe, Kevin Powell, David Durham, Terry McMillan, Nathan McCall, Nancy Rawles, Jabari Asim, Valerie Kinloch, Eisa Ulen, Thomas Bradshaw, Valerie Boyd, Fred Beauford, Regina Brooks, Martha Southgate, Tayari Jones, Thomas Glave, William Jelani Cobb, Angela Dodson, Jaira Placide, Kassahun Checole, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and Thomas Sayers Ellis.

National Black Writers Conference Bi-Annual Symposium[edit]

Held biannually, this day-long symposium brings together voices from across the literary spectrum.

2011 National Black Writers Conference Symposium[edit]

The 2011 National Black Writers Conference Bi-Annual Symposium recognized Pulitzer Prize-winning African-American playwright August Wilson. The symposium was held on Saturday, March 26, 2011, 10 A.M. – 5 P.M. at Medgar Evers College. Entitled "Honoring the Work and Life of August Wilson," this conference celebrated Wilson's contribution to the American literary canon. From Jitney, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Fences to Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and Radio Golf, his work explores themes such as racism, cultural identity, family relationships, and spirituality. The symposium was dedicated to exploring his work, in particular the impact of the cultural and historical themes of his work on the Black American experience and in literature.

The day-long symposium featured dramatic readings by acclaimed actors Jeffrey Wright, star of A Free Man of Color and Top Dog/Under Dog, and Tanya Wright, author and a cast member of HBO’s True Blood. Speakers and panelists included Woodie King Jr., founder of the New Federal Theatre; playwrights Thomas Bradshaw and Ed Bullins; Professor Dale Byam, director of the film August in April; scholars Kimberly C. Ellis, Donald Gagnon, Paul Carter Harrison, and Esmeralda Simmons.


Meditations and Ascensions: Black Writers on Writing is the bound proceedings of the Eighth National Black Writers Conference of 2006. Published by Third World Press, contributors to the tome include Marita Golden, Walter Mosley, Ishmael Reed, Herb Boyd, Haki R. Madhubuti, Valerie Boyd, Elizabeth Nunez, Samuel R. Delany, Tananarive Due, Valerie Wilson Wesley and many more. The book was edited by Dr. Brenda M. Greene and Fred Beauford and includes a foreword by Myrlie Evers, activist and widow to the slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers. The book was released in May 2008.[2]


  1. ^ Greene, Brenda M. (January 9, 2008). "About the Center". The Center for Black Literature. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  2. ^ Brenda M. Greene and Fred Beauford (eds), [1], Third World Press, 2008, at Amazon.