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Writing Across Genres

African American Women Writers in the Joanna Banks Collection
  • Symposium
Johanna Banks in her library, ca 2018

On exhibit January 13 - July 31, 2020

This exhibition explores how African American women of the late twentieth century authored books across multiple genres as they explored Black cultural and intellectual traditions. Novels, poetry, cookbooks, children’s books, essays, biographies and autobiographies, music, sermons, folklore, and art were all employed for this purpose, and are highlighted in this exhibition. Wherever possible, lesser-known works by prominent Black women writers are exhibited, often in genres that emphasize the range of their talents.

The exhibition celebrates the 2018 gift from the collector Joanna Banks of her library of late-twentieth-century African American books, with a particular focus on women writers, children’s books, and cookbooks.

Installation views of Writing Across Genres exhibition

2020 Jay I. Kislak Symposium
February 20-21, 2020

Black Women Writing Across Genres
in the Late 20th Century

The 2020 Kislak Symposium looks at the flourishing of Black women writers as a cultural force in late twentieth century America. Combining panels, roundtables, talks, and readings, scholars and artists will examine topics ranging from activist writing and the emergence of Black Queer Studies to theorizing the archive and the role of bibliographies in the making of collections. The symposium seeks to inspire new work in the discipline while honoring the important work that has already been done on many of the authors in the collection. Among the confirmed speakers are Lorene Cary, Cheryl Clarke, Farah Jasmine Griffin, and Cheryl Wall, along with the exhibition co-curators and Penn graduate students, Destiny Crockett and Kiana Murphy. The collector Joanna Banks will be joining the conversation.

The symposium is co-sponsored by the Center for Africana Studies and the Wolf Humanities Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Thursday, February 20, 2020

    4:00-5:00 pm Tour of exhibition

    5:30-6:30 pm Welcome and Keynote

    Welcome: Lynne Farrington (Penn Libraries) and Margo Crawford (Penn)
    Introduction: Barbara Savage (Penn)

    6:30-7:30 pm Reception

    7:30-9:00 pm Screening of Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (2019)

    For thirty years, beginning in 1979, Marion Stokes, who lived in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia, was secretly recording television twenty-four hours a day. She amassed 70,000 VHS tapes, an archive that is now a window into the role of television in shaping our world. This film explores the story of this collector of the ephemeral and the amazing legacy she left us. (More Information about Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project)

  • Friday, February 21, 2020

    9:30-10:00 am Coffee

    10:00-10:45 am Welcome

    Welcome: Constantia Constantinou (Penn Libraries)
    Introduction: Kiana Murphy (Penn)
    Lorene Cary (Penn), Writing Across Genres

    10:45-11:30 Interview with collector Joanna Banks, conducted by Destiny Crockett (Penn) and Kiana Murphy (Penn)

    11:30-11:45 am Break

    11:45 am-12:45 pm Before Black Queer Studies

    Chair: Kirsten Lee (Penn)
    Cheryl Clarke (poet and essayist)
    Mecca Jamilah Sullivan (Bryn Mawr College)

    12:45-2:00 pm Lunch

    2:00-3:00 pm Collecting and Selling Black Women’s Writings

    Chairs: Destiny Crockett (Penn) and Kiana Murphy (Penn)
    Vashti DuBois (The Colored Girls Museum)
    Jannah Handy and Kiyanna Stewart (BLK MKT Vintage)
    Jeannine Cook (Harriet’s Bookshop)

    3:00-3:15 pm Break

    3:15-4:15 pm Black Feminist Archival Reading Practices

    Chair: Tajah Ebram (Penn)
    Destiny Crockett (Penn) 
    Imani Ford (Columbia University)
    Kiana Murphy (Penn)

    4:15-4:30 pm Break

    4:30-5:30 pm Reflections

    Introduction: Margo Crawford (Penn)
    Farah Jasmine Griffin (Columbia University)
    Closing remarks: Barbara Savage (Penn)

    5:30-6:30 pm Reception