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Graham, Maryemma

Graham, PhD
Year Inducted: 
Maryemma Graham
  • Founder and Director of the Project on the History of Black Writing
  • Director of Langston Hughes International Symposium at KU and Founder/Director of the Langston Hughes National Poetry Project
  • President of the Toni Morrison Society and chair of her Princeton University 75th birthday party
  • Editor of numerous seminal collections of works on African American writers
  • Credited with revitalizing and restructuring the October Conference
  • John Hope Franklin Fellow, National Humanities Center
  • KU Distinguished Professor

Dr. Nancy Hiebert, the nominator of this next KU Women’s Hall of Fame inductee, wrote of the recipient, “Maryemma is a woman with a mission: to increase interest in and exposure to poetry as a spoken and written art, as a form of participatory activity, and as a means of advancing human understanding.”  Noted for her “characteristic zeal and energy,” Dr. Maryemma Graham wasted no time in advancing her mission here at the University of Kansas.  Since joining the faculty of the English Department in 1998, Maryemma has been credited with revitalizing and restructuring the October Conference, which focuses on the study and teaching of composition and literature at all educational levels.  Prof. John Edgar Tidwell writes that Maryemma insured the conference’s “success by forming alliances with the College of Education, the Lied Center, the Lawrence Arts Council, the College of Fine Arts, and the City of Lawrence.  It is this ability to bring previously parochial or self-contained interest together that is one of her greatest strengths.”  Maryemma has also taken on the leadership of the March Oral History Workshop, which, as colleague Barbara Watkins explains, “has drawn packed audiences every year and continues to grow.”  Her work as a scholar should not be underplayed as well.  Professor Emerti, Elizabeth Schultz explains, “A superb scholar, Professor Graham has edited numerous collections of works on African American writers, which have…become seminal in African American studies.” 

But undoubtedly, one of Maryemma’s greatest contributions to the KU, Lawrence, and International literary communities has been her leadership in the recent University symposium “Let America Be America Again: an International Symposium on the Art, Life, and Legacy of Langston Hughes.”  Chancellor Hemenway comments, “the media attention to the conference and to Langston Hughes, KU, and Lawrence was the best and most favorable I have seen for any project since I arrived here seven years ago…and [it] was the direct result of Professor Graham’s creativity, energy, and determination.”  Dr. Hiebert remarked of Maryemma’s leadership of the conference, “She has used her extraordinary abilities to significantly advance the University and Lawrence community’s understanding of African American culture and literature, to arouse a high level of interest in and commitment to improving and understanding relationships between races, and to share her passion for the power of literature, particularly poetry…In significant ways she has helped bridge the distance between races and generations.”  

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