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International Black Writers Conference, Revisited

The International Black Writers Conference, Revisited reflects on a conference that has served as an important convening of Black writers since 1970.

The event is presented as part of the Revisited/Reflected series and brings together a range of local writers—novelists, journalists, short story writers, playwrights, children’s authors, cultural critics, poets, and storytellers—and others for discussions around Chicago’s rich Black literary history and the ongoing challenges, points of progress, and pressing questions of the industry.

FREE, but space is limited. Please register in advance.

Register for the conference

This program is organized by Tempestt Hazel, an independent curator, writer, artists’ advocate, and founder and director of Sixty Inches From Center. The Revisited/Reflected series also includes Black FolkUs, Revisited (October 27) and is presented in conjunction with the Smart Museum of Art’s exhibition The Time Is Now! Art Worlds of Chicago's South Side, 1960–1980 and Art Design Chicago, a citywide exploration of Chicago’s art and design legacy.

Support for this program is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and Illinois Humanities (which is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities [NEH] and the Illinois General Assembly [through the Illinois Arts Council Agency], as well as by contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations).


Since its founding in 1970, the International Black Writers Conference (IBWC) has served as important point of connection for Black writers in Chicago and beyond under the leadership of its founding executive director, Alice Browning, who organized the conference until her passing in 1984.

Browning, a Bronzeville-based writer, grassroots publisher, editor and advocate of Black writers, was one of the first publishers of short stories by celebrated writers like Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks in the 1940s with Negro Story Magazine, which she founded with Fern Gayden. Housed within the Vivan G. Harsh Research Collection at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, her expansive collection of chapbooks from Chicago poets, clippings, comics, manuscripts, and ephemera chronicling the poetry scene during critical decades at the heart of the 20th century begs the question of why her name isn’t as know as those of the writers she championed.

Therefore, as a tribute to Browning’s legacy and as part of the Smart Museum of Art's exhibition The Time Is Now!: Art Worlds of Chicago’s South Side, 1960–1980, her work will be honored and uplifted through a revisiting of the International Black Writers Conference, pulling straight from the original design of the event as presented in the original conference programs.

Bringing together literary giants across genres and experience levels, IBWC not only showcased writers at the top of their game, but also took the temperature of the global Black literary community by focusing on the challenges, points of progress, and pressing questions of the industry. This revisiting of IBWC will do the same while bringing together writers who participated in the original conference and also seasoned and emerging Chicago-based writers who are unknowingly continuing Alice Browning’s legacy in their own ways.

Schedule and participants

Through a series of intimate roundtable discussions and readings, this contemporary look will explore the topics of Poetry and Lyricism; Narrative and Storytelling in Film and on Stage; Cultural Commentary and Criticism; and Black Press, Publishing, and Journalism.

Featured Writers: Angela Jackson (poet, playwright, Organization of Black American Culture [OBAC]), Sandra Jackson-Opoku (poet, OBAC), Dr. Haki Madhubuti (Third World Press, OBAC), Erisa Apantaku (South Side Weekly), Lolly Bowean (Chicago Tribune), McKenzie Chinn (poet, actor, Growing Concerns Poetry Collective), Aymar Jean Christian (Open TV), Grace Deveney (curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago), Mykele Deville (musician, poet, Growing Concerns Poetry Collective), Sabrina Greig (arts writer, curator, Fry Foundation), Jeffreen Hayes (arts writer, Threewalls), Morgan Elise Johnson (The Triibe), Jovan Landry (musician, filmmaker), Natalie Moore (WBEZ), Lee Ann Norman (arts writer), avery r young (& de deacon board), and many more.

Schedule of discussions will be announced closer to the event date.

Image: Image: Novelist Sam Greenlee and Alice Browning at the International Black Writers Conference 1978 (Photo by Barbara Cordell). Courtesy of Mapping the Stacks: A Guide to Chicago's Black Hidden Archives.