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POTSDAM In mid-February, 14 black writers were featured in daily audio snapshots from Professors SUNY Potsdam to celebrate Black History Month.

Derek C. Maus, professor of English and communication, launched A deeper dive into African-American literature at the beginning of the month, profiling black poets, novelists, journalists and playwrights and their work. The 5-minute episodes are produced in conjunction with the university’s Center for Diversity and its campus-wide black history programming.

As a student at an Arkansas public school in the 1980s, Maus recalls that the same collection of some 25 historical black figures was covered in the curriculum each year.

Unless you stop with those 25 people, you get the impression that there are 25 African Americans in any given field that matter, Mr Maus said in an interview this week. And that is simply not true.

A Deeper Dive, he says, involves probing the same phenomenon in American literature and introducing listeners to lesser-known black writers.

There is so much diversity in African American literature, and I think we are often locked into this narrow and varied interpretation of what it is, he said.

For example, two black women read poetry at the US presidential inaugurations Maya Angelou at President Bill Clintons ‘house in 1993 and Amanda Gorman at Joseph Bidens’ house last month.

They write a style of poetry that works great for openings, and they’re both very good at it, Maus said. But if these are your only exposures to African American women writing poetry, you’ll feel like this is how African American women write poetry.

The introductory podcast, he added, is a way to broaden the scope of American understanding of black writers. His suggestion is to explore 28 black writers, not in place of Frederick Douglass, Toni Morrison or James Baldwin, but in addition to them.

Excellence in itself deserves to be highlighted, he said. But the diversity of excellence that exists is what really interests me.

The series is hosted on YouTube and opens with Jupiter Hammon, a black slave living on Long Island in the 1700s. With his 1760 poem An Evening Thought, Hammon became the first black to publish writings in the United States.

The first episodes typically chronicle black Americans from colonial times and the Civil War, including Phyllis Wheatley, Pauline Hopkins and Sutton Griggs, who wrote Imperium in Imperio, a utopian novel that imagines a separate black state in the United States. .

Imperium in Imperio, Mr. Maus said, definitely shows that African American literature is American literature. Amid the mania for utopian literature published in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Sutton Griggs wrote his version.

In later episodes, the series leans more on contemporary black writers, including Britt Bennett, the 31-year-old bestselling author of The Mothers and The Vanishing Half.

It’s not just something that happens on February 1, Mr Maus said. If people can’t find them until August, then August becomes Black History Month and so much the better.

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