A Digital Future for Black Poetry at JMU, Thanks to New $ 2 Million Grant

JMU alumnus (then student) Norman Jones III presenting as part of the Innovating Archives class at the Furious Flower Poetry Center 25th Anniversary Celebration at the National Museum of African American History in September 2019.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded James Madison University $ 2 million over four and a half years to secure the digital future of the Furious Flower Poetry Center, the nation’s first academic center dedicated to black poetry. This generous grant will support the internationally recognized leadership of the Center and provide archival description, digital preservation and global access to a vast archive of Furious Flower poetry videos and oral performances held by the Special Collections of JMU Libraries. The grant will help strengthen and improve the Centre’s web and scholarly publishing infrastructure in partnership with open access and digital scholarship initiatives at JMU libraries. This work includes the pioneering Furious Flower literary journal The fight and the violin. Furious Flower and JMU Libraries staff planned all aspects of the project together. The partners will implement a new model of integrated library support for a living university center for the arts with archival components. This model, developed as part of a advance planning grant, will focus on the needs and ideas of black poets and their related scholarly and creative communities.

“It is truly gratifying to know that this grant from the Mellon Foundation will help us nurture, recognize and support black poets by creating a sustainable digital framework for the Furious Flowers Archives,” said Dr Joanne V. Gabbin, Director by Furious Flower. Director and English teacher.

“The Mellon Foundation’s investment has helped us move from a history of one-on-one collaborations and friendships to a true institutional and organizational effort,” said Dr. Bethany Nowviskie, Dean of Libraries, Head of Academic Technology at JMU and English teacher. “It is difficult and necessary work that goes beyond simple preservation and access,” she added. “It is based on fairness and shared understanding, aimed at redressing historical imbalances and building a better future.” Nowviskie and Gabbin are the main investigators of the project.

University President Jonathan Alger said the grant “will build a great capacity for digital engagement in JMU libraries and position Furious Flower for continued growth and success.” A continued investment by the Mellon Foundation to make archival treasures held in the special collections of JMU libraries available to academics, students and poetry enthusiasts around the world will strengthen our campus vision for JMU as a national model. of an engaged university: engaged with ideas and the world. “

The Furious Flower Poetry Center is located in the prestigious JMU College of Arts and Letters. Its mission is to ensure the visibility, historical preservation and critical consideration of black poets in American letters; to cultivate the appreciation of poetry among students of all levels; and support black poets at all stages of their careers. JMU Libraries have supported the Center in its mission to serve the university through research services, digital scholarships, publishing, preservation, instructional design, multimedia production, and academic technologies. The library’s special collections department houses the vast and unique audiovisual, print and manuscript collections of Furious Flower, as well as the papers of Dr. Gabbin, the founder of the center. Funding from the Mellon Foundation will help support videography, digital collection technology, and poet participation at the Fourth Big Furious Flower Field Building Conference, to be held in 2024. It will also fund four full-time positions. in Furious Flower and Special Collections. , and enable a search for the library’s first permanent curator for black arts and culture.