Black History Month: African American Writers

To celebrate Black History month this February, the Library is featuring the works of African American authors in a weekly blog post.  Each week we’ll highlight authors from our different collections including children’s literature, young adult fiction, adult fiction and nonfiction, and poetry.

This week we honor a few of the African American authors and illustrators from our Children’s Literature collection.

Jacqueline Woodson
Author Jacqueline Woodson is a  “four-time Newbery Honor winner, a four-time National Book Award finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner” (Source: Penguin Random House)  She is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.  Woodson writes books for all ages; her long list of works include picture books, middle grade readers, poetry, and young adult and adult fiction

Here is a selection of Woodson’s works that can be found in our Children’s Literature collection in Rockefeller Hall.

Andrea Davis Pinkney
Andrea Davis Pinkney is a publisher, editor and an award-winning author of over twenty books for children.   “Her books have been awarded multiple Coretta Scott King Book Awards, Jane Addams Children’s Literature Honor citations, four NAACP Image Award nominations, the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor medal, as well as several Parenting Publication Gold Medals, and American Library Association Notable Book citations” (Source: Andrea Davis Pinkney).  Pinkney has collaborated on several books with her husband, award-winning illustrator Brian Pinkney.

Here is a selection of books by Andrea Davis Pinkney that can be found in our Children’s Collection.

Kadir Nelson
Kadir Nelson is a critically acclaimed artist and Coretta Scott King Award winning author and illustrator of children’s books.  One of Nelson’s recent collaboration includes illustrating Miles Morales: Spider-Man written by award-winning children’s and young adult author Jason Reynolds.

Below is a selection of books written or illustrated by Kadir Nelson that can be found in our Children’s Collection.


Rita Williams-Garcia
Rita Williams-Garcia is an award-winning author of nine novels for young adults and middle grade readers.  Each book in her three book series featuring the Gaither Sisters, was the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award.  Her recent work Clayton Byrd Has Gone Underground is on the 2017 National Book Award Longlist for Young People’s Literature.

Below are works by Williams-Garcia that be found in our Children’s Collection.


Kwame Alexander
Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and award-winning author of 25 books.  Alexander has written books for all ages, including his Newbury Award winning middle-grade reader The Crossover (Source: Kwame Alexander).

Below are works by Alexander that be found in our Children’s Collection.



“Of Cages and Lions”: A New Exhibit in the Class of 1945 Library

photo credit: John Blackwell

A new exhibit on the ground floor of the library coincides with the grand opening of the new field house on Saturday, January 27. The exhibit looks back on Exeter’s history of developing athletic and fitness facilities, beginning with the very modest (and barely adequate) rooms rented in the 1870s in downtown Exeter. That situation was greatly improved by the construction of the Academy’s first gym, built around 1884. However, the growing importance of interscholastic athletics in the life of the Academy led to a need for better facilities. This need was met by the construction of the Thompson Gymnasium (1918) and Thompson Cage (1929).

The 1884 Gymnasium as viewed from Tan Lane, with Hoyt, Abbot, and the third Academy Building in the background.

The exhibit looks at the benefactor of those buildings, the colorful Colonel William Boyce Thompson (PEA 1890). He was a rough kid from Montana with an amateur zeal for sports and a respect for the ways physical exertion can mold young people’s character. The exhibit focuses chiefly on the Cage, which served Exeter from 1929 to 2016, since it was a beloved campus icon and it had to be torn down to make way for our new state-of-the-art facility. The Cage’s dirt floor, its creaky mezzanine-level wooden running track, atmospheric lighting, cathedral-like heights and seasonal netting implanted indelible memories in generations of Exonians.

“Of Cages and Lions” will be on view through March.

Audio Culture: A Sonic Travelogue to debut on WPEA


Music Librarian Drew Gatto is the host of a new radio program, Audio Culture: A Sonic Travelogue, set to debut on Thursday, January 18th from 9:00 until 10:00 pm on WPEA, 90.5 FM, the campus radio station.  The program will be broadcast in the same time slot each Thursday for the duration of the winter and spring terms.

Each week Audio Culture will feature music from a specific country or region of the world. The show will be organized around the theme of “cultural connections,” wherein all of the tracks played will reflect the relationship between a locale’s music and one or more significant aspects of its cultural life. Mr. Gatto will provide brief explanations of these connections between tracks, and playlists (including links to sound files with descriptive text) will be available on the program’s blog for those who are interested in further exploring the music featured on a particular show.  The first program will feature a tribute to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. as a supplement to the Academy-wide celebration of his birthday held on Friday, January 12th.

Mr. Gatto welcomes suggestions for future programs and hopes that you’ll join him “on the air” on Thursday nights!

Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame

The Class of 1945 Library is hosting the multimedia traveling exhibit Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame January 4th through January 26th. The multi-panel exhibit features text and audio from interviews with people who participated in or were affected by the 2014 Ferguson protests following the death of Michael Brown. The interviews were recorded by students in Ferguson, Missouri in May 2016 as part of the Moral Courage Project — a collaboration between PROOF: Media for Social Justice and the University of Dayton Human Rights Center.

Photographer: Mark Katzman

Ferguson Voices highlights the contributions of average people who found the courage to stand up during moments of unrest. The stories and images captured in Ferguson Voices are a testament not only to the systemic discrimination that the Ferguson protests laid bare, but also to the power of transformative action taken to foster community, accountability and justice.

Exhibit visitors can use their own mobile devices to listen to the voices of the subjects featured on each panel. The interviews have also been remixed as a podcast series available on SoundCloud.

The exhibit is on display in the Class of 1945 Library’s Rockefeller Hall. It is free and open to the public during Library Hours.

Books for Break

Before you head out for break, there’s still time to stop by the library to stock up on books to read over the holidays.  Browse our new books in Rockefeller Hall or head up to the 3rd floor to wander through our fiction collection.

Looking for for some reading suggestions?  Take a look at our Leisure Reading Guide where you’ll find some book finding aids like NoveList and Teen Book Finder and links to awards and end-of-year book lists.

Want to do some quick reading on your mobile device? Try out our magazine offerings on Flipster. 

Lamont Poet Tyehimba Jess

Phillips Exeter Academy’s Class of 1945 Library opens its 2017–2018 Lamont Poetry Series on October 18th with a reading by award-winning poet Tyehimba Jess. Jess is the author of leadbelly (2005), named one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2005” by Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review, and Olio (2016), winner of the Pulitzer Prize. A two-time member of the Chicago Green Mill Slam team (2000-2001), Jess was also Chicago’s Poetry Ambassador to Accra, Ghana. His work has been featured in numerous anthologies, including Soulfires: Young Black Men in Love and Violence (1996), Slam: The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry (2000), and Dark Matter 2: Reading the Bones (2004). He is the author of African American Pride: Celebrating Our Achievements, Contributions, and Enduring Legacy (2003), and Of Poetry & Protest: from Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin (2016).

Additional honors and fellowships include a Whiting Writers’ Award in Poetry (2006), the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Poetry Award (2001), the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship (2004), the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship (2000-2001), The Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award (2001), a Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center (2004-2005), the Whiting Fellowship (2006), as well as a Lannan Literary Award in Poetry (2016).

A former artist-in-residence with Cave Canem (1997, 1999, 2001), Jess has presented his poetry at the 2011 TedX Nashville Conference, taught at the Juilliard School, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and is the Poetry and Fiction Editor of African American Review. He is currently a Professor in English at College of Staten Island in New York City. Jess earned his BA from the University of Chicago and his MFA from New York University.

As the poet Nikky Finney writes, “Tyehimba Jess is inventive, prophetic, wondrous. He writes unflinchingly into the historical clefs of blackface, black sound, human sensibility. After the last poem is read we have no idea how long we’ve been on our knees.”

The reading will be held from 7:30-8:30pm in the Assembly Hall, located on the second floor of the Academy Building on Front Street. The event is free and open to the public.

The Entire Historical Archive of The Exonian is Now Available Online

In the spring of 1878, two roommates in Abbot Hall got the idea of starting a student-run newspaper. They soon invited a third Exonian to join them. None of them seemed dissuaded by their complete lack of experience in newspaper work or even in managing a business. Their first obstacle was overcoming the solid opposition of the powerful PEA faculty, which had rejected all past initiatives to give student journalism a foothold: they doubted a student newspaper could succeed financially, believed that it would interfere with the students’ studies, and (probably not least of all) didn’t want to invite scurrilous attacks and bumptious opinionizing.

However, a somewhat more liberal, experimenting attitude with regard to extra-curricular activity seemed to be taking hold at Exeter at this time: the first baseball and football teams were both organized that same year. The three Exonians’ persistence won the faculty over, and The Exonian was born. It now has the distinction of being the oldest continuously running secondary school newspaper in the country.

The Exonian is an invaluable historical resource for the history of our school, and indeed for the history of secondary education. Until now, access to back issues has been limited to fragile bound volumes in the Academy  Archives, but we are now happy to announce that the entire run of the newspaper, back to volume 1, issue 1 of April 6, 1878, is available online at!

Visitors to the site will be able to search and browse the entire historical archive of the newspaper, and clip and save articles as images or text. We invite you to explore the length and breadth of Academy history from the student’s perspective and satisfy your curiosity about questions like these:

  • In what year would you read, “Telephones have made their appearance among the students. There’s nothing like keeping abreast of the times”?
  • How long were tobacco advertisements featured in The Exonian, and when did they go away?
  • What did Exonian editors say about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Harkness gift, coeducation, and visitation policies?
  • How awesome a hockey player was Exeter’s new Admissions intern Yuna Evans ’13 really?

All but the last ten years of issues were created from scanning microfilm copies from the Academy Archives (more recent issues were derived from PDFs). The text rendered from the scanning process (optical character recognition, or OCR) is about 99% accurate. This means that inevitably some of the searchable text was inaccurately captured. Users of the archive are therefore invited to register and help improve its quality even more. (Try it out – you may find the “work” of text correction to be strangely satisfying and habit-forming!)

Peter Nelson
Head, Archives & Special Collections