African American History Month — Throughout the history of UNC Charlotte’s English Department, various members of our department have taught courses and conducted scholarship on African American literature and culture, but there are two retired faculty members who played especially important roles in this part of our department’s history: Mary Harper and Sandra Govan. Given that February is African American History Month, I have decided to make note of their lasting contributions to our department in today’s Monday Missive.
Mary Harper joined the English Department in 1971, and she taught in the department until her retirement in 1993. In addition to teaching courses on African American literature, she forged lasting relationships with other academics and cultural leaders both on and off campus. For example, she worked with Bertha Maxwell Roddey and Herman Thomas to establish the department that is now known as the Africana Studies Department. She also played a key role in establishing the Charlotte Afro-American Cultural Center, which is now called the Harvey B. Gannt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. For more information about her role in founding this center, please click on the following link: http://www.ganttcenter.org/donate/harper-roddey-society/
Sandra (Sandy) Govan joined the English Department in 1983, and she taught in the department until her retirement in 2009. During her career as an English professor, she broadened the range of courses taught on African American literature, and she expanded the types of works taught in these courses. For example, she regularly taught works of science fiction by African American authors, such Octavia Butler. She also developed our graduate courses in African American literature, and she served as the the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement ProgramCoordinator. Throughout her career, however, she remain committed to teaching undergraduate students. Her excellent record in the area of undergraduate teaching was recognized in 2001 when she was named a finalist for the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence.
The leadership of Mary Harper and Sandra Govan prepared the way for other English faculty members to teach courses in African American literature and culture. These faculty members include Malin Pereira, Jeffrey Leak, and Janaka Lewis. In a very real sense, the history of our English Department and African American History Month are interconnected stories.
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of the English Department. Here is the latest news:
Bryn Chancellor published a short story, “The Moon, the Pyramids, the World,” in NELLE, a literary journal published through the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Upcoming Events and Meetings — Here is a list of upcoming events and deadlines:
February 7 — Grace Ocasio will participate in a poetry reading at the Waccamaw Library on Pawleys Island, SC, from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
February 8 — The English Department meeting will take place from 11-12:30, in the conference room (Fretwell 280C).
Quirky Quiz Question — Sandy Govan is widely recognized as a leading authority on the works of the science fiction author Octavia Butler. Butler was the first science fiction writer to receive the prestigious fellowship that is unofficially known as the “Genius Grant.” What is the official name of this fellowship?
Last week’s answer: Sarah Minslow
The keynote speaker at this year’s EGSA conference is a professor from UNC Charlotte’s Global Studies Department. Our department also has another ongoing connection with the Global Studies Department. A member of our department regularly teaches a course that is cross listed with Global Studies. Who teaches this course?