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Book of Poetry by OU English Professor Receives 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work

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March 24, 2021

Book of Poetry by OU English Professor Receives 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

NORMAN, OKLA. – A book of poetry by a professor of English at the University of Oklahoma on March 22 was honored recently with the 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry.

The 52nd NAACP Image Awards will air at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 27, on CBS, BET Her, VH1, MTV, MTV2 and LOGO.

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers received the award for her collection of poems, The Age of Phillis (Wesleyan University Press, 2020), which is based upon 15 years of archival research on the life and times of Phillis Wheatley Peters, a formerly enslaved African person who in 1773 became the first Black American woman to publish a book. The Age of Phillis was long-listed for the 2020 National Book Award in Poetry, is the finalist for the 2021 PEN/Volcker Award and the 2021 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry, and was chosen as the “common read” for the Society of Early Americanists for the academic year of 2020-2021. 

“The OU College of Arts and Sciences congratulates Honorée Fanonne Jeffers on all of her recent outstanding achievements, including recognition at the 52nd Annual NAACP Image Awards,” said College of Arts and Science Dean David Wrobel. “Honorée is an extraordinarily gifted poet whose vitally important work illuminates issues of Black culture, racism, American history and gender. Her meticulously researched, deeply poignant, and thoroughly captivating collection of poems, The Age of Phillis, imagining the remarkable life and powerful work of Phillis Wheatley Peters, is thoroughly deserving of the universal acclaim it is receiving.

“Honorée Jeffers is an inspiring example of our world-class faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences who are boldly shaping the world of letters,” Wrobel added. “She is also an inspiring example of how the world of letters shapes our understanding of the world we live in and guides us toward tangible improvements in that world."

Jeffers is a poet, novelist, critic and scholar whose work examines the intersection of culture, religion, history and family. She is the author of four other books of poetry. Her sixth book and first novel, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, is forthcoming from Harper in July 2021, and is Ms. Magazine’s “Most Anticipated Book of the Year” and a Goodreads “Most Anticipated Book of the Year.” Book Page has named Jeffers a “Writer to Watch.”  

A 2021 USA Mellon Fellow, Jeffers in February was named one of the 60 fellows in the United States Artists’ class of honorees, who receive $50,000 each in unrestricted funds. She won the 2018 Harper Lee Award for Literary Distinction for her book The Glory Gets, and in 2020 was inducted into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame; both notations recognize lifetime achievement.

In consideration of her scholarly research on Phillis Wheatley Peters and early African Americans, Jeffers was elected in 2014 to the American Antiquarian Society, a learned organization to which 14 U.S. presidents have been elected.

She also has been awarded fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Aspen Summer Words Conference, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, MacDowell Colony, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Witter Bynner Foundation through the Library of Congress.

Jeffers was born in Kokomo, Indiana, and grew up in Durham, North Carolina, and Atlanta. She holds degrees from Talladega College and the University of Alabama. She has served on the OU faculty since 2002.