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Black History Month Writing Contest

Black History Month Writing Contest

February 1, 2021 - March 1, 2021

In celebration of Black History Month, the Cowan-Blakely Memorial Library is
sponsoring an essay contest on the theme of “Blackness Made Visible". The details are
as follows:

Deadline for submission: Monday, March 1.
Winners to be announced: Friday, March 5.
Prizes: Cash and book prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places.

Judging: The panel of judges will consist of librarians and students.
Judging criteria: Essays will be judged according to insightful, original engagement with
the theme, “Blackness Made Visible.”

Format & Length: Word-processed: 500-750 words (around 2-3 double-spaced pages) submitted as pdf, Word, or Google Doc files.



Primary text:

Ralph Ellison
“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan
Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of
substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to
possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see
me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as
though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they
approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their
imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.” (Invisible Man,
Prologue, p. 3, Second Vintage International Edition, 1995)

Essay Prompts:

● How might Blackness be made visible in the United States, and whose
responsibility is it to do so?

 - OR -
● Respond to one or more of these texts in the context of Black History Month and
the theme of Blackness Made Visible.

Other texts and articles:

James Baldwin
“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is
"As Much Truth As One Can Bear" in The New York Times Book Review (14 January 1962);
republished in The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings (2011), edited by Randall Kenan.

Malcolm X
"So over you is the greatest enemy a man can have — and that is fear. I know
some of you are afraid to listen to the truth — you have been raised on fear and lies.
But I am going to preach to you the truth until you are free of that fear."
The Autobiography of Malcolm X as Told to Alex Haley

Audre Lorde
“Racism. The belief in the inherent superiority of one race over all others and
thereby the right to dominance, manifest and implied.
“My response to racism is anger. I have lived with that anger, ignoring it, feeding
upon it, learning to use it before it laid my visions to waste, for most of my life. Once I
did it in silence, afraid of the weight. My fear of anger taught me nothing. Your fear of
that anger will teach you nothing, also.”
The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism,” at the National Women’s Studies
Association Conference, Storrs, CT; June 1981.

Alice Walker
“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a
right to be this way...I can't apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to... We
will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful...We realize that
we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to
recognize this, if they choose.”
The World has Changed: Conversations with Alice Walker (2010)

Richard Wright
"There was a charred stump of a sapling pointing a blunt finger accusingly at the
sky...And while I stood my mind was frozen within cold pity for the life that was gone."
Between the World and Me,” Partisan Review vol. 2, no. 8 (1935).

Paul Laurence Dunbar

We Wear the Mask

"We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!"