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It was a busy month for us here in the English department. Because of that, we didn’t get to celebrate Black History Month as much as we would have liked. And now we find ourselves in the final hours of the month with a whole list of ideas for posts that we will have to wait until next year to make. In an effort to make the most of these final moments, here’s a collection of amazing humans worth honoring.

Portrait of Paula Hicks-Hudson
Portrait of Paula Hicks-Hudson, from the Paula Hicks-Hudson for State Representative Facebook page

Paula Hicks-Hudson completed her M.A. English in Communication Development at CSU in 1975. After CSU, she went to law school and was admitted in the Ohio State Bar in 1982. She practiced law, specializing in business and education law, as well as Social Security and Working Disability before entering public office. Hicks-Hudson has worked as an attorney for the Toledo Legal Aid Society, an assistant prosecutor for Lucas County, and an assistant public defender. When she became the mayor of Toledo, Ohio, she was only the second woman to hold that office, and the first African American woman.

Hicks-Hudson is now a State Representative serving Ohio House District 44. Just recently she announced on her Facebook page that she’d received her committee assignments, “Mine are Finance, Civil Law, Rules, Agriculture. Ready to Work!!!” You can read more about her and keep informed about her work in the Ohio House on her profile on the Ohio House Representatives official page. We are all lucky to have leaders like her, working to improve the quality of her community through her hard work in the public and private sector, who believes that education is a pathway to success, and we are especially proud that she is our alumna.

Roxane Gay at September 10 at BAMPFA Lecture + Book Signing
Roxane Gay, BAMPFA Lecture + Book Signing, image by Berkeley Center for New Media

Roxane Gay is an American feminist writer, professor, editor and commentator. We featured her during Women’s History Month in 2017. Her bio on her website says,

Roxane Gay’s writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2014Best American Short Stories 2012Best Sex Writing 2012A Public SpaceMcSweeney’sTin HouseOxford AmericanAmerican Short FictionVirginia Quarterly Review, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. She is the author of the books AyitiAn Untamed State, the New York Timesbestselling Bad Feminist, the nationally bestselling Difficult Women and the New York Times bestselling Hunger. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel. She has several books forthcoming and is also at work on television and film projects.

One of the books she’s working on we are especially excited about: a book on writing! In a recent article, she was asked what she’d like to see in 2019, and she answered, “She’d also like to see her final project finished – a book of writing advice called How to Be Heard, which is about telling the stories you want to tell, and using your voice,” ( She also currently has a creative writing class on SkillShare, “Crafting Personal Essays with Impact.

Portrait of Tressie McMillan Cottom
Tressie McMillan Cottom

Tressie McMillan Cottom is a digital sociologist, professor, writer and columnist. She is frequently quoted in print and television media as an academic expert in inequality, higher education, and race. Millions List named her first book, Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, one of the most anticipated non-fiction books of 2016. Her highly anticipated collection of essays, THICK: And Other Essays, was released in January 2019. Fellow academic and writer, Roxane Gay, says of it, “To say this collection is transgressive, provocative, and brilliant is simply to tell you the truth. Thick is a necessary work and a reminder that Tressie McMillan Cottom is one of the finest public intellectuals writing today.” Recently, McMillan Cottom was on The Daily Show, where she discussed Thick, “embracing nuance and upending stereotypes of Black womanhood.”

Portrait of N.K. Jemison by Laura Hanifin
Portrait of N.K. Jemison by Laura Hanifin

N.K. Jemison is an award winning science fiction and fantasy writer, and a psychologist. Her fiction explores a wide variety of themes, including cultural conflict and oppression. She’s the author of Hugo Award Winning series Broken Earth. In 2016, Jemisin’s novel The Fifth Season won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, making her the first African-American writer to win a Hugo award in that category. The Fifth Season is currently being developed into a TV series by TNT.

Its sequels, The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky, won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2017 and 2018, respectively. She has also won a Nebula Award, two Locus Awards, and a number of other honors. On her website, she shares that, “In addition to writing, she has been a counseling psychologist and educator (specializing in career counseling and student development), a hiker and biker, and a political/feminist/anti-racist blogger.” Her author bio on Amazon says, “Look, I like to write. In particular I like to write about ordinary people — all kinds of ordinary people — in extraordinary situations, preferably in non-Earth worlds which nevertheless reflect our own. I’m trying to write decolonized fiction, for our postcolonial world. And at the end of the day, I just want to tell a good story.”

Portrait of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
HCLS Meet The Author Salon, Miller Branch Library, Ellicott City, MD. June 2017.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a writer and speaker born in Nigeria in 1977. Her work centers around the Biafran War and how it affected the citizens of Nigeria during the 1960s. She also writes about the struggles of living as a Nigerian woman in the United States. Adichie’s works of fiction include Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun. Her 2012 TED Talk influenced her nonfiction book titled We Should All Be Feminists and parts of her speech were adapted into Beyonce’s song “Flawless.” Recent news of note: 

  • Adichie received the 2018 Action Against Hunger Humanitarian Award. According to Action Against Hunger, “Chimamanda Adichie was selected to accept the 2018 Action Against Hunger Humanitarian Award because we are inspired by her unwavering support of women and refugees. As a transformational storyteller who brings diversity, complexity, and humanity to all her professional projects, ranging from best-selling books to TED talks, her work aligns perfectly with Action Against Hunger’s mission and vision.”
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was named the winner of the 2019 Everett M. Rogers Award, honored for “reframing the discourse on race, gender and identity.”
  • English PEN named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie the winner of the 2018 PEN Pinter Prize. The prize, named in honor of playwright and Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, is given annually to a writer of “outstanding literary merit from Britain, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize in Literature speech, casts an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’.”
  • Adichie addressed Harvard’s Class of 2018.

A few other fun lists:


We are going to miss the attention and effort of #BlackHistoryMonth. It has left us feeling so grateful for the many, many, many amazing authors, scholars, educators, and speakers who have and continue to enrich our studies, our understanding, and our lives.

We are so lucky to be the recipients of their work — their wisdom, creativity, humor, music, confusion, compassion, and even their anger — and so glad that we were able to honor them in this small way. May we carry this gratitude and continue to honor them, every day and always.