Arts Society & Culture

Georgia Writers Hall of Fame to induct four new members Nov. 9

Janisse Ray Author photo-v
Janisse Ray Photo credit: Raven Waters

Athens, Ga. – The environment and civil rights will be the focus of this year’s Georgia Writers Hall of Fame ceremony events Nov. 8 and 9 at the University of Georgia.

Taylor Branch and Janisse Ray will be inducted into the hall Nov. 9, along with posthumous honorees Vereen Bell and Paul Hemphill. The ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. All events are in the auditorium of the UGA Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries.

“The Georgia Writers Hall of Fame celebrates our state’s literary tradition, and this year we are proud to induct four outstanding Georgia writers,” said Toby Graham, university librarian and associate provost. Branch is best known for his landmark history of the civil rights era. Ray’s writing is deeply influenced by the natural world. Bell’s fiction first brought the Okefenokee Swamp into the national consciousness, and Paul Hemphill explored themes related to the working class South.

“Our programming will focus on the topics of civil rights and the environment, ones that connect this year’s inductees and that are of particular relevance to Georgia,” Graham said.

The activities begin Sunday, Nov. 8, with three discussions:

At 1 p.m., “Sustainability: Preserving our Environmental Heritage” will feature a series of “lightning talks” by selected UGA students and Ray about the issue of sustainability. Ray is an award-winning environmental writer and activist whose current passion is the issue of sustainability. The five- to six-minute student presentations will focus on their research in relation to Watershed UGA, a town and gown initiative to involve the UGA campus and the Athens community in restoring local streams.

“Watershed UGA is transforming our local streams into a living laboratory,” said Kevin Kirsche, director of the UGA Office of Sustainability, which is presenting the lightning talks along with the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.

Attention turns to civil rights at 2 p.m. for “A Conversation with Taylor Branch and UGA Students about the Civil Rights Movement,” with footage from the Civil Rights Digital Library.

A panel of UGA students has selected a series of short film clips that align with events detailed in “The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement,” written by Branch. Each student has prepared a question for Branch about these events and how they relate to contemporary issues and events. The panel of students was selected by Barbara McCaskill, a UGA English professor and a member of the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame Board of Judges.

At 4 p.m., an author discussion featuring Branch and Ray will be held, followed by a reception. Moderated by Hugh Ruppersburg, a University Professor of English, Branch and Ray will discuss what it means to be a Georgia writer and will share details of their writing life.

An exhibit featuring the four 2015 inductees, including photos and manuscripts, will be displayed in the gallery of the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library of the Special Collections Building through December.

The Georgia Writers Hall of Fame is part of the Spotlight on the Arts festival, a 10-day event highlighting UGA units and facilities, from visual arts and creative writing to music, dramatic arts, dance and more to foster an awareness and appreciation of the arts and an environment conducive to artistic innovation.