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2024 Conference – Un-Bioed: Radically Reimagining Black Women’s Lives

March 28 @ 4:00 pm - March 29 @ 3:00 pm EDT

Co-Sponsors: The Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies, University of Kentucky and African American Studies, Wake Forest University

Presented by the Black Women’s Biography Collective

March 28th
4:00-5:00 pm: Keynote – Salamishah Tillet
5:00-6:00 pm: Reception

March 29th
9:00-10:30 am: Towards A Communal Ethic of Black Women’s Life Writing
Ashley D. Farmer (University of Texas, Austin), K.T. Ewing (University of Alabama), Shanna Benjamin (Wake Forest University), moderated by Anastasia Curwood (University of Kentucky)

10:45-12:00 pm: The Art of Writing: How to Create Characters, Texture, and Voice
Bridgett Davis (Brauch College)

12:00-1:15 pm: Lunch Break

1:30-3:00 pm: Making Your Mark: Book Marketing Strategies in the Social Media Age
Tanisha Ford (City University of New York)

About the Speakers
Shanna Greene Benjamin is a biographer and scholar who studies the literature, lives, and archives of Black women. She has published on African American literature and Black women’s intellectual history in African American Review, MELUS, and PMLA, Studies in American Fiction. She is a coach who helps graduate students and faculty members write what only they can; she is a consultant who helps colleges and universities engage with inclusivity as a practice.

Her book, Half in Shadow, a biography of Norton Anthology of African American Literature co-editor Nellie Y. McKay, is forthcoming from the University of North Carolina Press.

Anastasia Curwood is Professor of History and Director of the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies, joined the UK Department of History and African American & Africana Studies in 2014. Her work has been recognized with fellowships from the Ford Foundation, The Institute for Citizens & Scholars, and the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference at Emory University. She is the author of Stormy Weather: Middle-Class African American Marriages Between the Two World Wars (2010). Her most recent book is Shirley Chisholm: Champion of Black Feminist Power Politics (2023).

Bridgett M. Davis is a novelist, essayist, teacher, filmmaker, memoirist, and curator. She pronounces her name Bridge-JET. She is the author of the memoir The World According To Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and named a Best Book of 2019 by Kirkus Reviews and Real Simple magazine.

Davis’ second novel, Into The Go-Slow, was selected as a best book of 2014 by Salon, The San Francisco Chronicle, BookRiot, Bustle, and The Root, among others. Time Out New York named Davis one of “10 New York Authors to Read Right Now”. Into The Go-Slow was praised by Nigerian writer Chris Abani as, “a beautiful allegory of love, family, expansion, hope and transformation”. Her debut novel Shifting Through Neutral, published by Amistad/Harper Collins in 2004, was a finalist for the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award; A Quarterly Black Review bestseller, and an “Original Voices” selection by Border’s Books. Davis was selected as the 2005 New Author of the Year by Go on Girl! Book Club — the largest national reading group for African-American women.

She is also the writer/director of the critically acclaimed, award-winning film Naked Acts, which screened at a host of festivals in the US, Europe, and Africa before having its theatrical and DVD release. Indiana University’s Black Film Center/Archive honored Davis on the 20th anniversary of the film’s production. The film is now part of the Black Film Archive’s permanent collection.

A major advocate for promoting and nurturing literary talent by people of color, Davis is co-founder and curator for Words@Weeksville, a monthly reading series held at Weeksville Heritage Center in Central Brooklyn.

With an early career as a newspaper reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Atlanta Journal/Constitution, Davis’ articles have appeared in a host of newspapers and magazines; more recently her reviews and essays have appeared in The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Los Angeles Times, Electric Lit and The Millions.

Equally dedicated to her work as a teacher and mentor, Davis is a Professor of Journalism and the Writing Professions at Baruch College, CUNY, where she teaches Creative Film, and Narrative Writing. She also facilitates writing workshops for junior faculty of color and women seeking to complete and publish their creative and scholarly works.

A graduate of Spelman College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Davis lives in Brooklyn with family.

K.T. Ewing is an Associate Professor of Gender and Race Studies. She is a proud third-generation HBCU graduate whose interests include Black history, women and gender studies, and the influence of blues culture in American society. She has writings published in The Black Scholar, Black Perspectives, Transformations in Africana Studies, and Black Female Sexualities. Her current book project, Remember My Name: Alberta Hunter and the Two-Faced Archive, examines the life of Alberta Hunter, a twentieth-century blues and cabaret singer from Memphis, Tennessee.

Tanisha C. Ford is Professor of History and Biography and Memoir at The Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the author of Our Secret Society: Mollie Moon and the Money, Glamour, and Power Behind the Civil Rights Movement (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2023), which was named one of Vanity Fair’s and Ms. Magazine’s Best Books of 2023. She’s also written three other books: Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul (UNC Press, 2015), winner of the OAH Liberty Legacy Foundation Award for Best Book on Civil Rights History; Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion (St. Martin’s, 2019); and Kwame Brathwaite: Black is Beautiful (Aperture, 2019). She writes regularly for public audiences, with stories in the Atlantic, New York Times, Time, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar, among others. In 2019, Ford was named to The Root’s 100 Most Influential African Americans list for her innovative, public-facing scholarship. Her research has been supported by institutions including New America/Emerson Collective, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Ford Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Ford is currently writing an experimental biography of sculptor and arts institution builder Augusta Savage, which will be published by Penguin Press—as part of Henry Louis Gates Jr’s “Significations” series. For more information, visit her website: tanishacford.com.

Salamishah Tillet won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for criticism for her work at The New York Times Magazine for columns examining race, genre, and Black perspectives as the arts and entertainment world responded to the Black Lives Matter movement with new works. She is also the author of In Search of The Color Purple: The Story of an American Masterpiece, and is currently working on a book on the civil rights icon, Nina Simone. She is currently the Henry Rutgers Professor of Africana Studies and Creative Writing and the Director of Express Newark , a center for socially engaged art and design at Rutgers University–Newark. In 2003, she and her sister Scheherazade Tillet founded the arts organization A Long Walk Home.