African American Read-In

Sign Up Now for the African American Read-In!

Help us celebrate the Twenty-sixth National African American Read-In, Sunday, February 7, 2016, immediately following the 9:00 A.M. service. Here at Trinity, this will be our thirteenth year to participate. Choose any short piece of literature or an excerpt from a longer text written by an African American author. Select from any genre that is of interest to you: poetry, fiction (novels, short stories, and other narratives), non-fiction (including speeches, biography, autobiography, history, and others). Those of you who have read previously, please read again, and this year, why not invite a relative, friend, classmate, colleague, or a member of another church to join you. The Read-In is open to the community. Anthologies of African American literature will be available in the library in the undercroft, and a book will be available for children. Also, search online and in your school and town libraries. Individual readings may extend to but not exceed 5 minutes. Drama and other groups are invited to read for a maximum of 10 minutes.

Email any questions and the author and title of your reading(s) to Eleanor Q. Tignor (eqtig@aol.com).
Deadline: January 29, 2016

Background

Every year for the last nine years in the month of February, Trinity on the Green has hosted the African American Read-In.  Participants select books, poems, speeches or any writings authored by African Americans, and read the works after the 9:00 service on Sunday.

We celebrated the Twenty-fifth National African American Read-In on Sunday, February 1, 2015.  Here at Trinity, it was our eleventh year to participate in this national program, which has also become international.

Established by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English and sponsored by the Black Caucus and the entire NCTE, the only organization of English teachers ranging from kindergarten to university, the African American Read-In began as a project for schools and colleges and then spread to the community, including churches. But this initiative for the celebration of African American history and culture did not just happen.

As many older adults know, it is linked to the observance of what had been called Negro History Month. But something preceded that; in 1926, one week in February was designated Negro History Week, by a man named Carter G. Woodson. A Negro historian, who earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1912, Dr. Woodson was the son of a slave, born in Virginia, who began high school at age 20, and studied at Berea College, the University of Chicago, the Sorbonne, and then Harvard. In 1915 he founded the Association for the Study of Negro History and Life to train Negro historians and to collect, preserve, and publish documents on African American life and individuals. In support of this work and to educate all people regarding the vast contributions made by Negroes, he founded several journals.

Why did Dr. Woodson choose February? Frederick Douglass, slave turned free man and abolitionist, was thought to have been born on February 14th and the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, signer of the Emancipation Proclamation, is February 12th. While Dr. Woodson died in 1950, Negro History Week celebrations continued. By the time our country celebrated its bicentennial, the year 1976, the federal government had decided to turn Negro History Week into Black History Month, which continues to be celebrated in schools and churches, and by many community and artistic groups. We, at Trinity, are part, therefore, of an historic national observance.

As has become our tradition on the Sunday of the African American Read-In—thanks to Walden Moore, Trinity’s Director of Music—the mood is set for the Read-In with the singing of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” at the end of each of our services.  The writing of the song and its emerging place in Negro history are of special interest.  Johnson, then a recent graduate of Atlanta University, had returned to his hometown of Atlanta to become principal of Stanton School. “There, in February 1900, he wrote ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ for a school commemoration of Lincoln’s birthday. Set to music by his brother, Rosamond, the song resonated throughout black America, achieving within Johnson’s lifetime the unofficial title of the ‘Negro National Anthem'” (Gates and McKay 792). Now well known as the “Negro National Anthem” and placed in many American hymnals, it brings together the themes of liberty for African Americans, faith in God, and allegiance to country: “Shadowed beneath thy hand/May we forever stand,/True to our God,/True to our native land” (lines 30-33).  Listening to the writings of a number of African American authors, you will hear these themes and many others which have become a part of the literature.

The program is coordinated at Trinity by Eleanor Q. Tignor, who each year invites Trinity members and friends to choose a text to read aloud.