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A digital future for Black poetry at JMU, thanks to new $2 million grant

HARRISONBURG, Va.Jan. 4, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — 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 devoted to Black poetry. This generous grant will support the Center’s internationally recognized leadership and provide for archival description, digital preservation, and global access to an extensive archive of Furious Flower poetry and spoken word performance videos held by JMU Libraries Special Collections. The grant will also help strengthen and enhance the Center’s web and scholarly publishing infrastructure in partnership with the JMU Libraries, including Furious Flower’s trailblazing literary journal, The Fight & The Fiddle. The project embodies a new model of library support centered in the needs and insights of Black poets and their scholarly and creative communities.

“It is really gratifying to know that this grant from the Mellon Foundation will help us to nurture, recognize, and support Black poets by building a sustainable digital framework for the Furious Flower Archive,” said Dr. Joanne V. Gabbin, Furious Flower Executive Director and Professor of English.

“The Mellon Foundation’s investment has helped us grow from a history of individual collaborations and friendships into a true institutional and organizational effort,” said Dr. Bethany Nowviskie, Dean of Libraries. “This is hard, necessary work that goes beyond mere preservation and access,” she added. “It is based in equity and shared understanding, aimed at repairing historical imbalances and building a better future.” Nowviskie and Gabbin serve as the project’s principal investigators.

University President Jonathan Alger noted the grant “will make the archival treasures held in JMU Libraries’ Special Collections available to scholars, students, and poetry lovers worldwide.”

The mission of the Furious Flower Poetry Center, housed within JMU’s distinguished College of Arts and Letters, is to ensure the visibility, historical preservation, and critical consideration of Black poets in American letters; to cultivate poetry appreciation among students of all levels; and to support Black poets at all stages of their careers. JMU Libraries has supported the Center as part of its mission to serve the university through research services and special collections, digital scholarship, publishing, preservation, instructional design, media production, and academic technologies.

More information about James Madison University, including rankings and recognitions can be found at

SOURCE James Madison University

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