Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts 2023

Joanne Braxton

Born in 1950, Joanne M. Braxton (she/her/hers), also known as Jodi Braxton, has published important poetry and criticism while maintaining the significance of historical and communal ties. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the doctoral program in American Studies at Yale, she made her debut as a poet in Dasein in 1969 and has published in the Folger Shakespeare Library Broadside Series and many little magazines, including The Journal of Black Poetry, Black Lines, Nimrod, Hoodoo, Hambone, Black Box, Callaloo, and the Cordite Review. She participated in the Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts, reading poetry in a special session called “Many Daughters, Many Voices,” with Pat Jones, Charlotte Carter, Audre Lorde, Ntozake Shange and Alice Walker on Mothers’ Day, Sunday, May 9, 1976. Gwendolyn Brooks hailed Braxton’s volume of poetry, Sometimes I Think of Maryland (1977), for its economy, courage, and genuine expression of youthful energy.   

Braxton’s critical monograph,  Black Women Writing Autobiography: A Tradition within a Tradition (1989), is a pioneering contribution to African American feminist scholarship, presenting trenchant analyses of historical and contemporary figures such as Harriet Jacobs and Maya Angelou. As an advocate of black literature and scholarship, Braxton co-edited Wild Women in the Whirlwind: Afra-American Culture and the Contemporary Literary Renaissance (with Andree Nicola McLaughlin, 1990);  edited The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1993); edited the Praeger-Greenwood Women Writers of Color biography series (2006-2017); and co-edited Black Female Sexualities (with Trimiko Melancon, 2015).  A poet, a cultural critic, literary historian, and ordained minister, Braxton encourages students to participate in “reclamation,” unearthing liberating stories whose telling heals and transforms individuals and communities.    

Teaching at William & Mary for more than three decades, Braxton earned the prestigious “Outstanding Virginia Faculty Award” as well as several lifetime service awards. Since her retirement from W&M as Frances L. and Edwin L. Cummings Professor Emeritus in 2018, Dr. Braxton serves as the lead creative for the Braxton Institute for Sustainability, Resiliency and Joy: A Ministry of Teaching and Healing. She is currently a Wenner-Gren Fellow, a Fellow of the Hastings Center for Bioethics, and Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Starr King School for the Ministry. She lives in Washington, D.C. and Gig Harbor, Washington.

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