Fifth HBCU Symposium to Explore Activism, Literacy, and Rhetoric

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New York, Sept. 27, 2023 --  The fifth Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Symposium on Rhetoric & Composition will take place in-person on October 5-6, 2023, at Jackson State University (JSU). Select sessions will be streamed virtually. The symposium, which focuses on excellence in English composition and rhetoric, acts as a think tank where every two years writing instructors from historically Black colleges and universities gather to discuss strategies that support student engagement, scholarship, and success. 

This year’s symposium will offer sessions and workshops that delve into the theoretical and practical applications of antiracism, including the role of higher education in Black activism, language and social justice in first-year writing classes, and how antiracist practices differ at HBCUs. To support ongoing scholarship, Bedford / St. Martin’s, a Macmillan Learning imprint, has partnered with Rhetoric, Composition and English departments to offer this conference at no cost to instructors and administrators from HBCUs and HBCU allies.

“HBCUs and predominantly Black colleges have produced many of the most impactful voices in our country,” said Leasa Burton, Vice President of Humanities for Macmillan Learning. “By supporting this conference, we hope to continue supporting this tradition by contributing to inspiring conversations about language and literature.”

“For hundreds of years, HBCUs have been instrumental in promoting academic excellence, while also mobilizing activism to give voice to scholarship,” said Dr. Wonderful Faison, director of the Richard Wright Center for Writing, Rhetoric, and Research at JSU. “Now more than ever, it’s important that scholars at HBCUs continue to provide access and support to teaching innovations for Black and other traditionally marginalized students.” 

Dr. Staci Maree Perryman-Clark, Professor of English and Director of the Institute for Intercultural and Anthropological Studies at Western Michigan University will offer this year’s keynote presentation: “The Work of Writing Never Ends: Using Students’ Right to Their Own Language to Bridge Writing Across the Curriculum and Diversity and Inclusion Professional Development Opportunities.”

Bedford/St. Martin's initiated the symposium partnership in 2014 to facilitate collaboration among HBCU scholars. Through expert presentations and thought provoking panels, the conference offers innovative teaching strategies from influential writing and English instructors from HBCUs and MSIs to help make their classes even more meaningful for students. Previous hosts include Florida A&M University (FAMU), Morehouse College, Howard University, and North Carolina A&T University.

Sessions for the fifth HBCU Symposium include*:

  • Toward a New Theory of African American Language
  • Depicting the Marginalized People and Places of Los Angeles: A Photovoice Project
  • The Tensions of Mothering, Teaching, and Advocacy: Black Males and Their Mother
  • Rarely Seen, Barely Heard: White Proximity, Misplaced Antiracism, and Rurality
  • Preparing our Guardians of History and Speakers of Truth: Rhetoric and Public Speaking at Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • Rhetorical Stance and HBCUs: Our Superhero Origin Stories
  • Silencing Black Voices in Africa and the African Diaspora
  • “The Resurrection and Representation of Emmett Till” as a First-Year Writing Course
  • Are PWI-centric Approaches to Addressing Racism Within “Artificially Intelligent” Writing Programs Doing Any Good?
  • Social Issues in Eng 101 (Workshop)
  • Language and Social Justice in First-Year Composition at Morehouse College

Select sessions will be filmed and live streamed by students in JSU’s Department of Journalism and Media Studies as a part of their practicum courses and will be made available after the symposium ends. To learn more about or register for the symposium, click here

*Speakers and sessions are as of September 26, 2023, and are subject to change.

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About Jackson State University 

Jackson State University, founded in 1877, is a historically black, high research activity university located in Jackson, the capital city of Mississippi. Jackson State's nurturing academic environment challenges individuals to change lives through teaching, research and service. Officially designated as Mississippi's Urban University, Jackson State continues to enhance the state, nation and world through comprehensive economic development, healthcare, technological and educational initiatives. The only public university in metropolitan Jackson, Jackson State is located near downtown, with four satellite locations throughout the area. For more information, visit