“Erasure of Black Thought” will be a conversation among Black academics that unpacks the current challenges to freedom of expression in schools, colleges, and the public sphere in regards to racism, history, and diversity (i.e. critical race theory). The event will offer a clear-eyed view of the current slate of censorious threats, while also providing concrete action items to push back against them.
Dr. Blair LM Kelley is assistant dean for Interdisciplinary Studies and International Programs in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and associate professor of History at North Carolina State University. Kelley is currently at work on a new book, Black Folk: The Promise of the Black Working Class, for Liveright/W. W. Norton and Company, which was awarded a 2020 Creative Nonfiction Grant by the Whiting Foundation. Her first book, Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship, won the Letitia Woods Brown Book Prize for best book from the Association of Black Women Historians. Active inside the academy and out, Kelley has produced and hosted her own podcast and has been a guest on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, MSNBC’s All In and Melissa Harris-Perry show, NPR’s Here & Now, and WUNC’s The State of Things. She has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Root, TheGrio, Ebony, Salon, and Jet magazine. Highlighted as one of the top-tweeting historians by History News Network, Kelley was among the first generation of historians active on Twitter. She has been tweeting as @profblmkelley for more than 12 years, and she has over 43,000 followers. Kelley received her BA from the University of Virginia in history and African and African American studies. She earned her MA and Ph.D. in history, and graduate certificates in African and African American studies and women’s studies at Duke University.
Jennifer Christine Nash is the Jean Fox O’Barr Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University. She earned her Ph.D. in African American studies at Harvard University and her J.D. at Harvard Law School. She is the author of three books: The Black Body in Ecstasy: Reading Race, Reading Pornography (awarded the Alan Bray Memorial Book Award by the GL/Q Caucus of the Modern Language Association), Black Feminism Reimagined (awarded the Gloria Anzaldúa Book Prize by the National Women’s Studies Association), and Birthing Black Mothers. She is also the editor of Gender: Love (Macmillan Reference USA, 2016). Her research has been supported by the ACLS/Burkhardt Residential Fellowships, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s Career Enhancement Fellowship Program.
Danielle Purifoy is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Purifoy completed a Ph.D. in environmental politics and African American studies at Duke University. Purifoy earned a BA in English and political science from Vassar College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Purifoy’s current research traces the roots of contemporary environmental conditions in the U.S. South, specifically in Black towns dating back to the postbellum era. Purifoy has also written about the legal dimensions of environmental justice and equity in food systems. Purifoy is the former Race & Place editor at Scalawag, a magazine devoted to Southern politics and culture, and the current board chair of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network.
Writer and journalist Bryan Burrough (author of Forget the Alamo) and author and activist Jim Schutze (author of The Accommodation) come together for this special event that will assess the negative impacts of censoring political and historical literature. The conversation will highlight their own recently censored works, and speak to the importance of learning and teaching history from a holistic perspective, including aspects of the past that make some uncomfortable.
Bryan Burrough is a special correspondent at Vanity Fair and the author of six books, including the No. 1 New York Times bestseller Barbarians at the Gate and his latest, Days of Rage. He is also a three-time winner of the prestigious Gerald Loeb Award for excellence in financial journalism. Born in 1961, Burrough was raised in Temple, TX, and graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri in 1983. From 1983 to 1992, he was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he reported from Dallas, Houston, Pittsburgh, and during the late 1980s, covered the busy mergers and acquisitions beat in New York. In 1990, Burrough and John Helyar co-authored Barbarians at the Gate, the story of the fight for control of RJR Nabisco. The book, which spent 39 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, has been hailed as one of the most influential business narratives of all time. Burrough joined Vanity Fair in 1992, where he has reported from locales as diverse as Hollywood, Nepal, Moscow, Tokyo, and Jerusalem.
Jim Schutze is a recipient of the National Association of Black Journalists’ award for commentary, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary twice, and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues three times. In 2011, Schutze was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters in recognition of his career as a journalist and author. Schutze was a columnist for the Dallas Observer from 1998 to 2020 and was Dallas bureau chief of the Houston Chronicle from 1996 to 1998. From 1978 to 1991, Schutze was the metropolitan page columnist for the Dallas Times Herald. In the early 1990s, he wrote six nonfiction books, including The Accommodation: The Politics of Race in an American City and Bully: A True Story Of High School Revenge, which was the basis for a controversial film directed by Larry Clark. Two of his books were finalists for the national Edgar Allan Poe Award for crime writing.
Sanderia Faye serves on the faculty at Southern Methodist University; was an instructor at the 2017 Desert Nights, Rising Stars Conference at Arizona State University; and is a professional speaker and activist. Her novel, Mourner’s Bench, is the winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in debut fiction and the Philosophical Society of Texas Award of Merit for fiction. She is cofounder and a fellow at Kimbilio Center for Fiction, and her work has appeared in the anthology Arsnick: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Arkansas. Faye moderated the grassroots panel for the Arkansas Civil Rights Symposium during the Freedom Riders’ 50th Anniversary and is coordinating the first AWP African Diaspora Caucus. Her work received “Best Of” honors at the 2011 Eckerd College Writers’ Conference (co-directed by Dennis Lehane and Sterling Watson), where her winning excerpt from the novel was published in SABAL Literary Journal. She received grants and scholarship offers from the Hurston/Wright Foundation’s Writers Week, the Eckerd College Writers in Paradise Conference, Callaloo Writers Workshop, and Vermont Studio Center. She attended The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow and Martha’s Vineyard Writers Residency. She holds an MFA from Arizona State University, an MA from The University of Texas at Dallas, and a BS in accounting from the University of Arkansas. She is currently a Ph.D. student in English at the University of North Texas.
Writer and editor Chris Tomlinson (coeditor of Forget the Alamo) and young adult author Ashley Hope Pérez (author of Out of Darkness) come together for this special conversation to discuss recent threats to free expression in Texas. The discussion will unpack controversies including the recently canceled Forget the Alamo book event at the Bullock Texas State History Museum as well as the recent and expansive book ban in Texas’s Leander Independent School District, which includes Pérez’s Out of Darkness.
Chris Tomlinson is the author of two New York Times bestsellers and a columnist for the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News. His latest book, Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth, was co-written with Bryan Burrough and Jason Stanford and deconstructs the Texas origin myth to reveal the truth behind the state’s legends. His previous bestseller, Tomlinson Hill: The Remarkable Story of Two Families who Share the Tomlinson Name-One White, One Black, examines the history of race in America from the family’s 1850s Texas slave plantation to the present day. Tomlinson writes commentary about energy, business, and policy three times a week, drawing on his 25 years of reporting experience.
Previously, Tomlinson was the supervisory correspondent for The Associated Press in Austin, responsible for Texas government and politics reporting. From 2001 to 2009, he was a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press and served as the East Africa bureau chief in Nairobi, Kenya. Tomlinson has reported from more than 30 countries, including Rwanda, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Congo. Before becoming a journalist, he spent seven years in the U.S. Army. He graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1992 with special honors in humanities. Tomlinson currently serves on the board of advisers of the Texas Book Festival and two contemporary art organizations in Austin, Co-Lab Projects and The Museum of Human Achievement.
Ashley Hope Pérez is the author of the young adult novels Out of Darkness (Carolrhoda Lab, 2015), The Knife and the Butterfly (Carolrhoda Lab, 2012) and What Can’t Wait (Carolrhoda Lab, 2011). Her debut novel, What Can’t Wait, won a spot on the 2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adult list, and The Knife and the Butterfly was included in the 2015 YALSA Popular Paperbacks list. Pérez grew up in Texas and taught high school in Houston before pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature. She is now a visiting assistant professor of comparative studies at The Ohio State University and spends most of her time reading, writing, and teaching on topics from global youth narratives to Latin American and Latina/o fiction. She lives in Ohio with her husband, Arnulfo, and their son, Liam Miguel.
Jonathan Friedman is the director of free expression and education at PEN America, where he oversees advocacy, analysis, and outreach to educational communities and academic institutions. In this role, he drives forward PEN America’s efforts to catalyze a more informed, civic culture through free expression education for the rising generation and the general public. Friedman served as lead author on PEN America’s 2019 report, Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America, and on the production of its digital Campus Free Speech Guide. He regularly provides commentary on campus free speech issues for national news media, has facilitated workshops, and has conducted advisory meetings with students, faculty, and administrators at dozens of colleges and universities across the United States.
This roundtable conversation will focus on the historical challenges to gender expression, sexuality, and free speech in Alabama, including how these challenges play out through the experiences of LGBTQ+ writers from the state. This panel will explore the unspoken, speak the unspeakable, and open doors into the present.
This discussion is being presented in partnership with the ACLU of Alabama.
Brontez Purnell is a writer, musician, dancer, filmmaker, and performance artist. He is the author of a graphic novel, a novella, a children’s book, and the novel Since I Laid My Burden Down. Recipient of a 2018 Whiting Award for fiction, he was named one of the 32 Black Male Writers for Our Time by T: The New York Times Style Magazine in 2018. Purnell is also the frontman for the band The Younger Lovers; the cofounder of the experimental dance group the Brontez Purnell Dance Company; the creator of the renowned cult zine Fag School; and the director of several short films, music videos, and most recently, the documentary Unstoppable Feat: Dances of Ed Mock. He recently released his current novel 100 Boyfriends (MCD x FSG). He won Lambda Literary’s James Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize in 2021. Born in Triana, AL, he’s lived in Oakland, CA for 19 years.
Born in Selma and raised in Centreville, AL, Minnie Bruce Pratt came out as a lesbian in Fayetteville, NC in 1975. She received her BA from The University of Alabama the year after segregationist Gov. George Wallace “stood in the schoolhouse door,” and her Ph.D. from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1979. Her books and poems have received awards from the Academy of American Poets, the American Library Association, the Poetry Society of America, Lambda Literary, and The Publishing Triangle. Her second book, Crime Against Nature, about losing custody of her children as a lesbian mother, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
An anti-racist, anti-imperialist women’s liberation activist, Pratt co-authored Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism (1984) with Barbara Smith and Elly Bulkin. Her essay from that volume, “Identity: Skin Blood Heart,” has been adopted in hundreds of college classrooms as a teaching model for diversity issues. Along with lesbian writers Chrystos and Audre Lorde, she received the Lillian Hellman/Dashiell Hammett Award given by the Fund for Free Expression to writers “who have been victimized by political persecution.” She is a managing editor of the Workers World/Mundo Obrero newspaper, and lives in her hometown in Alabama and in Central New York. Her most recent book is Magnified (Wesleyan University Press, March 2021), dedicated to her partner and spouse, Leslie Feinberg, trans activist and theoretician.
Joi Miner, 39, is a mother of two beautiful daughters from Montgomery, AL (currently residing in Birmingham, AL). She is a full-time author-preneur: editor, performance poet, storyteller, and sexual assault and domestic violence activist, who loves spending time with her family, hosting shows, and listening to good music. Miner loves writing engaging stories and plot twists that keep her readers at the edge of their seats.
Emrys Donaldson’s work has recently appeared in Electric Literature, TriQuarterly, Passages North, Redivider, and The Rupture, among other venues. Donaldson holds a BA summa cum laude from Cornell University and an MFA from The University of Alabama. Donaldson is an assistant professor of English at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL.