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ENCORES: A selection from the O. B. Hardison ‘Afrofuturism’ reading (2019)

Folger Public Programs is pleased to present ENCORES, a weekly online series highlighting past performances and recalling the rich history of programming on the historic Folger stage. As many arts and cultural institutions remain closed during this time, these ENCORES provide a way to connect and revisit the breadth of Folger offerings with a wider audience.


ENCORES presents

O.B. Hardison Poetry Series
What Was, What Is, and What Will Be: A Cross-Genre Look at Afrofuturism, February 2019
co-sponsored by the PEN/FaulknerFoundation and the Library of Congress
with Tananarive Due, N.K. Jemisin, and Airea D. Matthews
Learn more about the event on Folgerpedia

Tananarive Due reads from her upcoming novel, The Reformatory, expected to be published in 2022.

To listen to the full reading, click here.

Read the introduction by author Tananarive Due:

Hello and welcome to Folger ENCORES. I’m Tananarive Due and I’m happy to be able to speak with you. The Folger has been sharing selections from their plays, music, and readings with you in this ENCORES series.

This week, we’re revisiting the reading What Was, What Is, and What Will Be: A Cross-Genre Look at Afrofuturism. I joined N.K. Jemisin, and Airea Matthews for a reading of fiction and poetry at the Folger. You’ll hear me read a section from my upcoming novel, The Reformatory, which should be published in 2022.

The Reformatory is actually inspired by a tragic event in my family history. In 1937, at the age of 15, my great uncle, Robert Stevens was sent to a notorious reformatory: The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, which was a prison disguised as a school. He never came home and was buried at the makeshift cemetery known as Boot Hill.

I never knew my great uncle’s story until 2013, when the Florida Attorney General’s office called me to tell me about Robert Stevens and to ask me to join other relatives in giving permission to try to find his remains for a proper burial, and also to try to figure out how he died. An untold number of children, most of them Black, were buried at that cemetery—at least 55, it turned out. After learning more about the story and attending the opening day of excavation at the site with my father, my son, and my husband, Steven Barnes, I knew I had to write about Robert Stevens. I had to give him a chance for a different story.

This section is just one part of the full reading on Afrofuturism that also features N.K. Jemisin reading from their Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death, and poet Airea Matthews reading from their work, Simulacra. I encourage you to listen to the full reading on SoundCloud.

Please be sure to join us again for these weekly episodes of ENCORES, highlighting all that the Folger has to offer. Thank you.


Encores LogoCheck back each Friday for a new “from the archives” performance, introduced by some of our favorite artists, showcasing the best of Folger TheatreFolger ConsortO.B. Hardison Poetry, and lectures.

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