Call for Papers, Roundtables, and Workshops: Third HBCU Symposium on Rhetoric and Composition "Re-imagining the African American Canon for Teaching Composition at HBCUs" Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA, September 26-28, 2019

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Please submit your abstract proposals to no later than August 19, 2019.


Your abstract proposal should be 250-350 words and should note whether this is an individual or group submission, and what form it will take. Proposals will be blind reviewed by a committee of readers. Official invitations will be emailed by August 16 for accepted presentations, and you must register for the conference no later than September 6, 2019, to confirm your intent to present. Computers, laptop connections, and projectors will be available. Please specify any additional support you will need. We are planning to develop a series of publications from the selected papers presented at the conference, and your work may contribute in that manner. The Symposium will take place September 26-28, 2019 on the campus of Morehouse College and at the Robert Woodruff Library in Atlanta, GA. Please contact (470-639-0896 office or 516-849-8112 cell) if you have further questions about the call or the Symposium.


Call for Papers, Roundtables, and Workshops

From their inception over 150 years ago, Historically Black Colleges and Universities have provided students with a curriculum in English Composition that prepared them to compete in different professions and to advance the cause for social justice through the power of the pen. Iconic African American texts that illustrate mastery of composition skills have been rendered from the pens of HBCU professors and graduates: Martin Luther King Jr., at Morehouse College; W. E. B. DuBois at Clark Atlanta University, Alice Walker at Spelman College, and Toni Morrison and Amiri Baraka at Howard University, among others. We can continue this African American intellectual tradition by teaching students in this millennia and the future to write using the iconic texts of our literary forbears and contemporary writers.  Papers will be accepted that offer pedagogical strategies for teaching composition, using canonical African American texts which provide pedagogical techniques in literary analysis and cultural analysis, including, but not limited to, those texts that have been adapted for film or media, ie: James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and others.

Because tradition can always serve as an empowering force, a temperate view of the present, or a way for us to process change and envision a different future, this call seeks to build on the work that began with the first HBCU Symposium on Rhetoric and Composition held in 2014 at North Carolina A and T. During the symposium, organizers, presenters, and attendees discussed a vision for Rhetoric and Composition training at HBCUs. Historically, we have trained minority students to critically navigate various professional, intellectual, and social spaces that often excluded them, but were in desperate need of their presence. To say this another way, HBCUs represent unique, inclusive spaces for rethinking rhetoric and composition and the type of work important to our changing student populations. In 2018, the second Symposium held at Howard University emphasized that it is imperative that teachers, researchers, and scholars invested in the HBCU experience begin to think critically and collaboratively about the roles that technology, politics, social justice, feminism, gender and sexuality studies, and labor studies play in the way students are trained to write, think, and compose in the 21st century.  

As we plan the third Symposium, we want to provide a venue for those working at HBCUs or predominantly Black colleges to begin to think about teaching Rhetoric and Composition with an eye toward reimagining the value of the African American canon for contemporary writers. Hence, the integration of works of iconic African American writers in the writing/ English curricula would provide African American students a content knowledge that would facilitate critical thinking and writing skills. We should introduce HBCU students to literature that reflects various Black perspectives. Therefore, we should teach such authors as Richard Wright (Black Boy), Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man), James Baldwin (Notes of a Native Son), Walter Mosely (Devil in a Blue Dress), Jamaica Kincaid (Lucy), Maya Angelou (“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”), Alice Walker (The Color Purple), Toni Morrison (Beloved), Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God), Jesmyn Ward (The Fire This Time); the poets Langston Hughes (“The Negro Speaks of Rivers”), Robert Hayden (“Middle Passage”),  June Jordan (“Poem About My Rights”), Gwendolyn Brooks (“We Real Cool”), Nikki Giovanni (“Nikki-Rosa”), Sonia Sanchez (“For My Brother”); and the plays of Lorraine Hansberry (Raisin in the Sun), August Wilson (Fences), and Amiri Baraka (Dutchman), and Ntozake Shange (For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf) among many others.

The Advisory Committee invites proposals for the 2019 HBCU Symposium on Writing that addresses the following:

  • Using iconic African American writers to teach writing at HBCUs
  • Effective models of first year writing programs at HBCUs
  • Strategies and best practices for teaching writing to African American students
  • Research on African American students’ writing
  • Culturally referenced material for teaching writing
  • Assessing African American students’ writing
  • Role of writing centers at HBCUs
  • Teaching writing for special purposes
  • How to use digital and social media for teaching writing
  • Teaching writing across the curriculum at HBCUs