CCNY’s MFA in Creative Writing creates “Archives as Muse: A Harlem Storytelling Project”

“Archives as Muse: A Harlem Storytelling Project” is a three-year project from the MFA in Creative Writing program at The City College of New York, which was made possible by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. The goal of the project is to connect with, serve, understand and celebrate the Harlem community while enhancing the community’s own tools for memory, research and creativity.  

The storytelling project, directed by Michelle Valladares, lecturer and director of the MFA in Creative Writing, aims to include symposia, interviews, online workshops and exhibits as well as a resource section with links to public archives. Students explore Harlem stories and neighborhoods and participate through a series of graduate and undergraduate archival classes while they train to do the following:

  • collect stories from Harlem neighbors, local archives and community organizations; 
  • work with librarians and archivists to study and archive the materials; and 
  • share findings—via gallery exhibits, digital programs, and symposia–with CCNY students and faculty, scholars from around the country and all over the world, and local residents of the Harlem community.

CCNY’s MFA in Creative Writing recognizes the importance of the Harlem Renaissance—the literary, social and cultural explosion of creative and intellectual work by Black artists, poets, novelists, philosophers, activists and musicians in the 1920s—and through the project want to celebrate Harlem’s rich literary history as well as recognize the original people who lived in Manahatta (Manhattan), the home of the Lenape tribe.

This year’s symposium is “Archives as Muse Symposium: How Creatives Use the Archives,” which takes place today, Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. It considers how creatives use the archives with a special focus on the work of award-winning writer, journalist and educator, Herb Boyd, who is also a collaborator of the project. Panelists include archivist and Professor William Gibbons, photographer and Professor Emeritus Lewis Watts, Herb Boyd and novelist and Professor Nelly Rosario, who will act as moderator.

Collaborators of the “Archives as Muse: A Harlem Storytelling Project” include The Hurston/Wright Foundation, The Cohen Library, CCNY Libraries, the Langston Hughes Archives of The City College Black Studies Program and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

About the City College of New York
Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided a high-quality and affordable education to generations of New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. CCNY embraces its position at the forefront of social change. It is ranked #1 by the Harvard-based Opportunity Insights out of 369 selective public colleges in the United States on the overall mobility index. This measure reflects both access and outcomes, representing the likelihood that a student at CCNY can move up two or more income quintiles. In addition, the Center for World University Rankings places CCNY in the top 1.8% of universities worldwide in terms of academic excellence. Labor analytics firm Emsi puts at $1.9 billion CCNY’s annual economic impact on the regional economy (5 boroughs and 5 adjacent counties) and quantifies the “for dollar” return on investment to students, taxpayers and society. At City College, more than 16,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in eight schools and divisions, driven by significant funded research, creativity and scholarship. CCNY is as diverse, dynamic and visionary as New York City itself. View CCNY Media Kit.

Ashley Arocho
p: 212-650-6460