4 PROMOTING AFRICAN AMERICAN WRITERS often contains themes and storylines of struggles for freedom, human rights, and civil rights, as well as universal themes of love and sorrow. Enslaved Africans were forbidden even to speak their native languages. It was illegal to teach Africans and children born of Africans in America to read or write. Nonetheless, remnants of African culture survived through griots, music, and other oral communication traditions. People of African descent eventually learned to read and to write the English language. Over 400 years, despite racial barriers, an African American literature emerged and developed with poetry, novels, essays, plays, and other writings throughout the different peri- ods of American history. Great African American writers can be found from the time of the antebellum South to Reconstruction, from the Great North- ward Migration to the Harlem Renaissance, from the Civil Right Movement to urban protests, and from the Black Arts Movement to the twenty-first century. Promoting African American Writers: Library Partnerships for Out- reach, Programming, and Literacy draws into the spotlight African American writers from many genres and specializations and from many time periods. I use seven basic steps to develop much of the programming that I’ve organized and coordinated, or in which I’ve played a major role: 1. Decide on African American writer(s) to promote focus on a program theme. 2. Recruit a working group to help generate ideas for the program. 3. Develop a timeline for program planning about twelve to eighteen months out. 4. Begin the work of completing the objectives of the program plan, including determining whether the writer(s) featured have their publications available in local libraries and bookstores or online. 5. Identify potential program partners from the local community within or outside an organization by doing a community analysis or environmental scan. 6. Recruit core individuals and/or organizations to become programming partners. 7. Continue “word-of-mouth” communication and networking, followed by program marketing. GETTING STARTED WITH PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT Step One: Decide on a particular writer or group of writers to promote. Then determine a program theme or by deciding on a theme first, you may narrow the choice for a writer or writers. To provide inspiration of possible writers for programs I have some suggestions. Here is a list of some genres and specializations along with names of some African American writers and culture keepers representative of those cate- gories. I use the term “culture keepers” to refer to designates whose work is
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