Tag Archives: Katie Haggstrom


Black History Month is almost over, but we’ve barely brushed the surface of the influence black authors have had on the literary community.

Rita Frances Dove was born in Akron, Ohio in 1952. Her father, Ray Dove, was the first African-American to work in the tire industry as a chemist. Following in her family’s educational footsteps, Dove graduated from high school as a Presidential Scholar and continued to Miami University where she graduated summa cum laude. In 1974, Dove held a Fulbright Scholarship from the German university Eberhard Karls Universitat Tubingen. By 1977, she graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop with an MFA.

Her strong academic success has given Dove 25 honorary doctorates from prestigious institutions like Yale University (2014), Emerson College (2013), and Emory University.

She has published countless poetry collections and novels, many of which Dove has won awards for. Her collection Thomas and Beulah won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 and On the Bus with Rosa Parks was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1999. Recently, she won the Stone Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement from Oregon State University in April 2016.

Dove was the first African-American appointed as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for the Library of Congress from 1993-95. According to an article on Diane Rehm, following her position as poet laureate and “determined to make her art form accessible to the public, Dove transformed the position into that of poetry ambassador.” From 2004-2006, Dove served as the poet laureate of Virginia.

Dove’s work has brought her recognition from multiple US Presidents. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 1996 from President Bill Clinton. In 2011, Barack Obama awarded Dove the National Medal of Arts.

February 12, 2012: Poet and author Rita Dove is presented with a National Medal of Arts by U.S. President Barack Obama during an East Room ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C. Dove was presented with the medal for her contributions to American poetry and literature. (Alex Wong/Getty Images North America)

(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images North America)

Rita Dove continues to inspire new generations to be creative and use their voice. As she explains, “without imagination we can go nowhere. And imagination is not restricted to the arts. Every scientist I have met who has been a success has had to imagine.”

Video: Rita Dove discusses influence in this brief excerpt from the Academy of American Poets’ first annual Poets Forum in 2007.

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W.E.B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du Bois is remembered for his many roles as a journalist, educator, African-American sociologist, and Civil Rights activist. He was born in 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Du Bois excelled at school, receiving two bachelor’s degrees from Fisk University (a historically black college in Nashville) and Harvard College, where he studied under the philosopher William James. Following a fellowship from the John F. Slater Fund for the Education of Freedmen in 1982, Du Bois continued his studies at the University of Berlin. Upon his return from Berlin, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D from Harvard University. These degrees led to his various teaching positions at Wilberforce University in Ohio, University of Pennsylvania and Atlanta University.

The influence of Du Bois extended far beyond his academic career. He co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1910 and published pivotal works about racism and segregation. Du Bois published a book of essays called The Souls of Black Folk in 1903, drawing from his experiences as an African American. In 1915, Du Bois, along with the NAACP, worked to ban the silent film The Birth of a Nation with featured blacks in a negative, horrific light.

The History Channel explains that Du Bois “sought to place African-American experience in its world historical context. Out of this mix evolved his dual projects of building an African socialism and publishing a work of scholarship on the African diaspora.”

In 1961, Du Bois moved to Ghana where he began working on his Encyclopedia of Africana which documented information about Africans and people of African descent around the world. He died in 1963, the same year he became an official citizen of Ghana, at the age of 95.

The 1963 March on Washington honored W.E.B. Du Bois with a moment of silence. While he wasn’t around to see the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it embodied everything Du Bois spent his life fighting for.

Video: W.E.B. Du Bois – Mini Biography from Bio.

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Author, civil rights activist, and women’s rights activist Alice Walker was born in Putnam County, Georgia in 1944. Born into a family of sharecroppers, she was the youngest of eight children. She grew up surrounded by oral tradition, hearing stories from her grandfather.

Her grandfather’s stories inspired her, at the young age of 8, to being writing the novel that would become The Color Purple. As she explained it, “with my family, I had to hide things. And I had to keep a lot in my mind.” Writing became a way for her to get some of these thoughts out. At the same age, she was shot with a BB pellet in her right eye while playing with her older brothers. This left her with a visible scar in her eye, making her self-conscious and turning her into a shy and timid girl.

Under the Jim Crow Laws in Georgia, Walker attended a segregated school. In her own words, “I grew up in the South under segregation. So, I know what terrorism feels like — when your father could be taken out in the middle of the night and lynched just because he didn’t look like he was in an obeying frame of mind when a white person said something he must do.”

Walker wrote her first book of poetry during her senior year at Sarah Lawrence College, where she graduated in 1965. By 1982, The Color Purple was published as her third novel and turned into a 1985 movie directed by Steven Speilberg, featuring influential women like Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg. Walker won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Color Purple.

Walker’s influence extends beyond her writing. She worked as a social worker, teacher, lecturer, and took part in Mississippi’s 1960s Civil Rights Movement. She also participated in the 1963 March on Washington. In 2003, Walker was arrested outside the White House with 26 others during the March 8th International Women’s Day. In an interview with Democracy Now, she said “I was with other women who believe that the women and children of Iraq are just as dear as the women and children in our families, and that, in fact, we are one family.”

Walker was the focus of a 2014 documentary Alice Walter: Beauty in Truthpart of the American Masters series. According to PBS, the films “showcase extraordinary women and girls who are changing the world.” Beauty in Truth “explores Walker’s relationship with her mother, poverty, and participation in the Civil Rights Movement, which were the formative influences on her consciousness and became the inherent themes in her writing.” (Watch the movie online: https://vimeo.com/136860538).

[Video: In 2013, The WOW Festival included the world exclusive premiere of Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth, a feature documentary film directed by Pratibha Parmar about the life and art of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple. After the screening, Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar took part in a Q & A.]

At the age of 73, Alice Walker continues to be an outspoken activist, using her history as a touchpoint for pushing back against current national issues.

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~from intern Katie Haggstrom

Danny's favorite quote

Danny Bishop’s favorite quote

Danny Bishop
Double Major: English and Journalism & Media Communication

You mentioned that up until last year you wanted to be a news reporter. What made you change your path?
Like most liberal arts students, I have had several professional identity crises. I always planned on reporting for a newspaper after graduation (and that remains a viable backup plan), but last year I realized my heart wasn’t in it. After working for various newspapers, I found that reporting felt stifling, and was just a substitute for my actual goals regarding more substantial writing. I found that I enjoyed my writing in literature classes and creative workshops much more than reporting, and my English classes were a better fit for my voice as a writer. Being a double major is a great compromise because I get a chance to test my chops in a variety of genres — both professional and creative.

What is your biggest piece of advice for peers or underclassmen considering a MA in English?
Having just finished my applications last month, I urge students to get started early and be selective. First, it is a long process considering the various drafting, editing, and testing that is required. Make it a priority early to ensure your best work is showcased. Second, be aware that the application requirements vary, so you will have to spend time tailoring the documents to each program, so the workload increases substantially with each program you apply to. If you’re like me and are applying while also taking classes, working, attempting a social life, then applying to 10+ programs is not reasonable (or affordable). Try to pair down to the necessities to maintain a shred of sanity.

What’s your favorite book, poem, quote, lyric, genre, author?
Favorite Book: Today my favorite book is Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. That is subject to change tomorrow.
Quote: “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth” – Albert Camus
Poem: “This World is Not Conclusion” – Emily Dickinson

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Maya Angelou reciting her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993

Maya Angelou reciting her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

Writer, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou had a powerful story to tell. She led an enormously influential life, using her 1969 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings autobiography to share her personal experience with racism, trauma, family and journey of self-discovery.

Angelou was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1928. She was abused by her mother’s boyfriend, Freeman, who was murdered shortly after being released from jail. Following that incident, Angelou became mute for 5 years. As she explained it, “I thought my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone.”

But Angelou persisted, rediscovering her voice and using it to lead an impactful life and share her story. Her influence expanded far beyond her autobiographies, essays, and poetry. She’s credited with countless plays, movies and television shows as both an actress and a writer. She received dozens of awards and over 50 honorary degrees. Her role as a civil rights activist pushed her to the forefront where she served on both Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter’s committee. At Bill Clinton’s inauguration ceremony, she read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning.”

In 2010, President Barrack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

President Barack Obama presenting Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2011

President Barack Obama presenting Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2011

When Angelou passed away in 2014, she left behind nothing but support for telling her story and the stereotypes she spent her whole life fighting against. CNN called her a “woman who pushed for justice and education and equality.” Obama said that the world lost “one of the brightest lights of our time—a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman. She inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.” Angelou’s works and her actions still speak for themselves.

It seems fitting to let Maya Angelou to have the last word. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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Malcolm X was a strong voice for human rights activism and an African-American Muslim minister born in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. He laid the foundation for the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 70s. Unlike Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent protests, the Black Power movement incited more violence and asked for immediate radical action.

But Malcolm X’s early life wasn’t as outspoken. His father, a Baptist preacher, was killed when he was six and Malcolm was put in foster care. By the age of 20, he was in prison serving time for larceny and breaking and entering. It was after his release the he joined the Nation of Islam, an African-American political and religious movement, and became a powerful leader.

This strong foothold in the civil rights movement came at a cost: Malcolm X became a target. He survived multiple assassination attempts, forcing him to travel with a team of bodyguards. In 1965, his family’s home was firebombed (fortunately, with no injuries). Just a week later, he was assassinated in the Manhattan Audubon Ballroom. An astounding fifteen hundred people came to his Harlem funeral.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published in 1965, the result of a collaboration between himself and journalist Alex Haley. Eliot Fremont-Smith, reviewing The Autobiography of Malcolm X for The New York Times that same year, describes it as “extraordinary” and says it is a “brilliant, painful, important book.” The words Malcolm X left behind still resonate today, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement: “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”

Video: A short biography of Malcolm X, from Bio.

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Nearly 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, the nation still celebrates the impact he made fighting against black discrimination. For MLK Day on January 16th, over 1000 people showed up in Old Town Fort Collins to join in the MLK Day March [source http://source.colostate.edu/mlk-day-march-celebration-jan-16/]. The March ended at CSU with powerful poetry and essay readings, showing that King’s dream is still alive today.

CSU MLK Day Celebration

CSU MLK Day Celebration 2017

Martin Luther King Jr. was born Michael King Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. King was an American Baptist minister but is better known for his role as a civil rights activist who practiced nonviolent protesting. In 1955, he led the Montgomery bus Boycott and founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference just two years later.

King’s speeches and letters, including the Letter from a Birmingham Jail, still have a lasting influence among the literary community. During the 1963 March on Washington, King spoke about his longstanding dream and the future he saw for America: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

One year after the March on Washington, President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibited racial discrimination. That same year, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for his civil rights activism and fight against the Jim Crow laws. He was the youngest man to receive the Nobel at the age of thirty-five.

Martin Luther King Jr had a dream that saw all men as truly equal. His words still incite passion and the hope of one day fulfilling his dream.

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~from intern Katie Haggstrom

Name: Tiffany Akers [I ran into Tiffany in the basement of Eddy in the Writing Center].

What is your major/program in the English Department?
I am a first year TEFL/TESL graduate student.

How do you spend more of your time in Eddy Hall?
Most of my time in Eddy is spent working in the Writing Center.

As a TEFL/TESL student, where else do you spend a lot of your time, if you’re not in Eddy?
As a full-time grad student working two jobs and freelance copy-editing, I spend copious amounts of time in my home or the library between commitments. I also enjoy volunteering with INTO and working on professional development actives around Colorado. When I’m not married to my career/studies, I am committed to rugby. So, I’m either in Boulder for practice or traveling for games/tournaments.

Describe Eddy Hall in one word.

Finally, what’s your favorite book, poem, quote, lyric, genre, author?
Wow, this is really hard to decide!!

  • Reading romance novels from the authors Terry Spear and Karen Moning is a guilty pleasure.
  • I love classics, such as The Odyssey and The Count of Monte Cristo.

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Author Octavia Butler paved the way for African-American science fiction authors. Born in 1947 in Pasadena, California, Butler conquered obstacle after obstacle, from losing her father, living with dyslexia, and fighting stigmas against both women and African American writers. At the young age of 10, she begged her mother for a Remington typewriter so she could write out her own stories.

Her first novel, Patternmaster, was published in 1976 and followed a group of telepathic individuals known as Patternists, a story that eventually expanded into a larger series. By 1979 and the publication of Kindred, she was firmly established as an African American writer.  The protagonist of Kindred is an African American woman, and the story is part slave narrative, part time-travel tale. Through Kindred, she brought together critiques of both past and present societal hierarchies, both blended together in the science fiction genre.

Called the “grand dame of science fiction,” Butler fearlessly crossed many lines. She used her novels to challenge our way of thinking and show that humans, regardless of race, deal with the same problems across all history and time. In an interview with Charlie Rose, she said, “I write about people and the different ways of being human.” Her work has been categorized as Afrofuturism, but her works often revolves around a multi-ethnic, or multi-species, world.

In 1984, Butler won both the Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the Nebula Award for Best Novelette. By 1995, she was the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant.

Butler changed the way we look at science fiction, as well as proving that African American Literature isn’t limited to certain literary genres.


Video: Octavia Butler interviewed by Charlie Rose in a show that aired June 1, 2000. Find the transcript of the full video here: https://charlierose.com/videos/28978

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From Jill Salahub, English Department Communications Coordinator: We had so many great applicants for the internship position this time around. Any of them would have been a great fit, which meant we got to pick the best of the best. I am so happy to introduce the English Department’s Communications Interns for Spring 2016 — Katie Haggstrom and Joyce Bohling, (who was also with us last semester, and was so great we asked her to stay on). Just like the position description states, they are creative and enthusiastic CSU students with good communication and writing skills who are super excited to help us tell the story of the English Department. We had our first official meeting last week, and there’s lots of good stuff coming your way! If you have any ideas of what they should be writing about, events they should be attending, people they should profile, etc., send those suggestions my way.


From Katie Haggstrom: “I admit that I’m a cliche English student, but I try to live by Emerson’s quote ‘do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’ I went from spending my undergraduate years bundling up against harsh Minnesota winters at St Olaf College to studying in Tanzania, London and attending NYU’s Publishing Institute.”

“I will always be a Nebraska native, but I officially moved to Fort Collins in August to begin a Masters in English at CSU. While I’m beginning my second semester, I’m still adjusting to the whole graduate student thing. But I’m amazed at the countless authors, writers, and poets invited to speak at CSU. As your intern this semester, I’m excited to learn more about the different events and speakers on the calendar.”

“If you see me lurking around Eddy (where I seem to live most weekdays), feel free to say hello.”

Joyce Bohling

Joyce Bohling

From Joyce Bohling: “I’m excited to be returning for a second semester as a Communications Intern for the English Department! In the fall, I not only learned a lot about writing for the web, but met some very cool people I otherwise would not have met, learned more about people I already knew, and got to share their stories with all of you. I’m looking forward to another semester of learning all I can about communications and about this department. Don’t hesitate to contact me (or Katie or Jill) if you have a story you’d like to be heard.”

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