National Black Writers Conference To Honor Work of Paule Marshall and John A. Williams

NBWC 2021 Symposium Flyer



The Center for Black Literature Will Focus on Unsung Black Literary Voices, Including Legends Paule Marshall, John A. Williams, and Others
Brooklyn, NY — The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY (CBL) will celebrate and honor the lives and works of legendary writers Paule Marshall and John A. Williams at the 2021 National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium (NBWC2021). The one-day virtual event is titled They Cried
I Am: The Life and Work of Paule Marshall and John A. Williams, Unsung Black Literary Voices. Esteemed authors such as Edwidge Danticat, Donna Hill, and Liza Jessie Peterson will headline the day. The Symposium will be held on Saturday, March 27, 2021, beginning at 11:00 a.m. EST, and will be open to
the public. For more information, visit The public can register for this event via Inquiries are also directed to (718) 804-8883 or to

For many years, the Center has been deeply involved in honoring the work of literary giants such as Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka, and Sonia Sanchez—all of whom have played a significant role in supporting the yearly event. CBL has also created platforms for some of today’s most celebrated writers and thinkers,
including Ta-Nehisi Coates, Kevin Powell, asha bandele, Jelani Cobb, and Joan Morgan. For the past year, a heightened interest in Black literature has added more fuel CBL’s continued commitment to spotlight Black writers – including those who may not be as well known but whose work has significantly impacted
literature across cultures. Paule Marshall and John A. Williams are two of those Black writers.

The literary careers of Paule Marshall and John A. Williams were launched with the publication of Brown Girl, Brownstones in 1959 (Marshall) and The Man Who Cried I Am in 1967 (Williams). Both writers contributed seminal work that centered the African American experience during a time when those
narratives were not common. Their novels, short stories, and essays issued a call to America: “I Am.” Despite their enduring themes, they remain among the “unsung” sheroes and heroes of American and Caribbean literature, and the Center aims to change that narrative.


A prestigious group of scholars and writers will offer academic and personal perspectives, as well as dramatic readings of Marshall’s and Williams’s work through panels, roundtables, and dramatic presentations. Some of the confirmed presenters include Dr. Carole Boyce-Davies, Wallace Ford, Keith
Gilyard, Maryemma Graham, Michael Anthony Green, Lawrence P. Jackson, Evan Marshall, Ishmael Reed, Linda Villarosa, and Mary Helen Washington.

Additionally, the keynote address, We Cried I Am: Paule Marshall and John A. Williams. Why the Works of Paule Marshall and John A. Williams Matter, will delve into the ways the honorees’ works relate to the current social and political environment. Attendees can also look forward to a musical tribute from Jazz Singer Tulivu Donna Cumberbatch, a presentation of awards to the honorees, and remarks from family members of Marshall and Williams.


CBL’s programming season is supported by Harry Chapin Foundation, Amazon Literary Partnership, Ford Foundation, National Book Foundation, Con Edison, and City of New York Council Members Inez Barron and Laurie A. Cumbo.


The mission of the Center for Black Literature is to expand, broaden and enrich the public’s knowledge and aesthetic appreciation of the value of Black literature. Through a series of programs that build an audience for the reading, discussion and critical analysis of contemporary Black literature and that serve
as a forum for the research and study of Black literature, the Center convenes and supports various literary programs and events such as author readings and book signings, writing workshops, panel discussions, conferences and symposia. It is the only center devoted to this in the country.

For more information, visit the official Center for Black Literature website


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