Valerie Boyd Inducted into Georgia Writers Hall of Fame | Arts & Culture

On Thursday night, the public gathered at the Richard B. Russell Jr. Special Collections Libraries Building to introduce Valerie Boyd to the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.

Faculty, students and writers occupy seats, many of whom are affiliated with the Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the University of Georgia Press, co-sponsors of the event. Boyd’s brother, Timothy Boyd, was also in attendance.

Boyd died on February 12, 2022, after 18 years teaching writing at the University of Georgia. She is best known for writing the biography “Rainbow Wrap: The Life of Zora Neal Heston”, published in 2003. She has won the Southern Book Award for Nonfiction of the Year, the American Library Association’s Distinguished Book Award, and the Georgia Writers Award for Nonfiction of the Year, among other honors.

Paper describing Valerie Boyd’s book “More Than Brave: Black Resilience and Rehabilitation in a Time of Pandemic,” at the author’s Sept. 22 inauguration into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame superior. (Lily Kersh/Staff)

“Every time I see Valerie, she’s doing some work to amplify the voices of black writers and other writers of color,” said Lisa Baier, director of UGA Press. Bayer, the board judge reviewing the nomination, worked with Boyd and introduced her at Thursday’s event.

Timothy Boyd accepted the award in her name. He summed up his sister’s mission with the acronym BIRDS – to bring inspiration, inspiration and demonstration to every situation.

A panel discussion, Q&A and reception followed the awards.

Moderated by author, artist and educator Shay Youngblood, the discussion explores Boyd’s life, legacy and influence on black writers. In addition to Youngblood, the group includes four other black women, all respected authors: Rosalind Bentley, Karen Good Marable, Latria Graham and Tayari Jones.

The author discusses Boyd’s final book, More Than Brave: Black Resilience and Rehabilitation in a Time of Pandemic, which will be published posthumously this November.

“She’s going to keep opening doors … to make sure she’s going to open doors for black women … to the end, and that’s exactly what she did,” Bentley said during the discussion. “She did it for me.”

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Students, faculty, and library staff socialize at the UGA Special Collections Library Building after Valerie Boyd was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame on Sept. 22. (Lily Kersh/Staff)

Senior English majors Paris Whitney and Trudi Sundberg attended the event and interned at The Georgia Review.

“I was really inspired by the black women writers in the group, especially since I’m a black woman writer,” Whitney said. “Hearing them all talk about their experiences and how they were mentored by Valerie Boyd was really eye-opening and it really changed the way I think about the writing industry.”

Boyd became a Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in 2007 and serves as director of Voice for the Silent, a grants program created by Hunter-Gault and her husband. She created an MFA in Narrative Nonfiction at UGA, the only program of its kind in the country in a journalism department rather than an English department.

“It’s really interesting … to hear the way she’s advocating for black women and writers,” Sandberg said. “It’s really inspiring. I’m glad this happened at UGA.”

According to its website, UGA’s Georgia Writers Hall of Fame “recognizes Georgia writers past and present whose work reflects the state’s identity—its land and its people.” Eligible writers are either from Georgia or have created significant writing in the state. The Hall of Fame is organized and hosted by the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Panelists pose for a photo during Valerie Boyd’s inauguration into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame on Sept. 22. (Lilly Kersh/Staff)

Open nominations are reviewed by a review committee appointed by UGA librarians.

There are 76 recipients, and the list includes Margaret Mitchell, John Lewis, Alice Walker, Martin Luther King Jr. and Flannery O’Connor. Boyd’s introductory class has two other authors: Sue Monk Kidd, author of “The Secret Life of Bees,” and poet Thomas Lux, a Georgia Tech professor.

Boyd’s nomination was voted on and approved in the fall of 2021 before the author’s death. Although she knew she had been inducted into the Hall of Fame, she died before the ceremony.

In addition to “More Than Brave,” Boyd’s book, Gathering Flowers Under Fire: The Diary of Alice Walker, was published posthumously this April. It is a curated compilation of The Purple’s author Walker’s journals.


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