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University of Mississippi

Archive for the ‘Faculty Books and Publications’ Category

Ropes: Poems by Derrick Herriell

Posted on: December 9th, 2015 by

Derrick Harriell, assistant professor in English and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi, won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters 2014 Poetry Award for his collection of poems, Ropes, focused on the lives of black boxers in America. Cotton (Aquarius Press/Willow Books, 2010) was his first collection of poems.


Ropes: Poems by Derrick Harriell, Aquarius Press/Willow Books

Ropes: Poems by Derrick Harriell, Aquarius Press/Willow Books

“Promised Jim Crow/don’t go in the ring,/that the language of/the fourteenth amendment lies/ within those ropes. Long before Jackie Robinson bravely entered major league hatred, African Americans tied cultural pride, anxiety and politick to angry fists buffered with cotton. Derrick Harriell has mined the human history of lives perpetually in fight and woven a gutbucket stench of ghetto wail and back alley holler survival. The work of these four rounds, the transparent employment of voice and source, working the head, body, groin and knees, is a flurry of converging dialogues, real and cleverly imagined, in conversation with self, God, Uncle Sam, other Black pugilists and the women who adorn these boxers as trinket and stain. Jack Johnson, from Leavenworth, writes to Joe Louis We take turns dying. Myth, truth, lies and the substance of Black testosterone in viscous, historically-textured sonics, Ropes confirms Derrick Harriell is among the finest young poets in the country.”
—Quraysh Ali Lansana, author of mystic turf and Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy & Social Justice in Classroom & Community

“In 4 rounds, Derrick Harriell tours us through the cultural history of boxing, from Mike Tyson and Joe Frazier to one of the first African American pugilists, writing from 1855. These richly detailed persona poems are spoken by boxers and also the journalists, cutmen, and girlfriends who surround the ring. Harriell’s nuanced ear conveys not just the intimacies of a sport but the intimacies of the human spirit. Ropes is a knock out.”
Beth Ann Fennelly, professor of English and director of the MFA Program at the University of Mississippi, and author of Tender Hooks and Open House

Cotton: Poems by Derrick Harriell

Posted on: December 9th, 2015 by
Cotton, Aquarius Press/Willow Books, by Derrick Harriell

Cotton, Aquarius Press/Willow Books, by Derrick Harriell

The first collection of poems by Derrick A. Harriell, assistant professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi, Cotton, was published by Aquarius Press/Willow Books in 2010.


“In his remarkable debut collection, Cotton, Derrick Harriell has created a mural in poems. The characters that inhabit this vivid tableau step into an active third dimension and allow us to witness the vicissitudes of their daily struggles, triumphs large and small, private desires. The community here is anchored by a specific Midwestern, African-American family which, in spite of both external and internal challenges, maintains its unity, however precarious at times. Death, passion, humor, mother wit, history, place, these are the colors that Harriell mixes and applies with such artistry that readers may not be so sure if they are watching a particular world or if that world is watching them. Harriell is among America’s most exciting new voices in poetry.”
—Maurice Kilwein Guevara

“All African Americans have a historic relationship with cotton. The southern United States was once the world s major supplier of cotton, King Cotton. It fueled the 19th Century s need for increasing the slave trade. The migrations of the freedmen could never put distance to that fact. Derrick Harriell s poems are the doors in the neighborhoods where they settled. The people of the streets, the houses, and the bars live in these poems. The personal family history of blues and redemptions are woven in the fabric, too. Both, noble and wicked traditions are revealed in a rich credible vernacular, a musical voice, like a storyteller sitting in your kitchen or on the barstool beside you testifying to the significant particulars, situations of poetic truths, the edgy full dimensions deep within the culture. Cotton is a stirring debut, and Derrick Harriell is a blues poet.”
—Gary Copeland Lilley, Author of The Subsequent Blues

Derrick Harriell was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He holds a Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a MFA in Creative Writing from Chicago State University. He is an assistant professor of Creative Writing for the Department of English and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi. He formerly taught Creative Writing at UW-Milwaukee. He has presented in conferences such as the Idlewild Writers Conference and will present at Chicago State University in 2013. A former assistant poetry editor for Third World Press, Harriell served as poetry editor for The Cream City Review. A Pushcart Prize Nominee, Harriell’s poems have appeared in various literary journals and anthologies, including The Cream City Review, Reverie, the Lamplighter Review and Main Street Rag.

Outside the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League

Posted on: December 9th, 2015 by

By Charles K. Ross, associate professor of history and director of African American Studies at the University of Mississippi

Outside the Lines by Charles K. Ross, NYU PressOutside the LinesNYU Press (2001), traces how sports laid a foundation for social change long before the judicial system formally recognized the inequalities of racial separation. Integrating sports teams to include white and black athletes alike, the National Football League served as a microcosmic fishbowl of the highs and lows, the trials and triumphs, of racial integration.

Watching a football game on a Sunday evening, most sports fans do not realize the profound impact the National Football League had on the civil rights movement. Similarly, in a sport where seven out of ten players are black, few are fully aware of the history and contributions of their athletic forebears. Among the touchdowns and tackles lies a rich history of African American life and the struggle to achieve equal rights.

Although the Supreme Court did not reverse their 1896 decision of “separate but equal” in the Plessy v Ferguson case until more than fifty years later, sports laid a foundation for social change long before our judicial system formally recognized the inequalities of racial separation. Integrating sports teams to include white and black athletes alike, the National Football League served as a microcosmic fishbowl of the highs and lows, the trials and triumphs, of racial integration.

In this chronicle of black NFL athletes, Charles K. Ross has given us the story of the Jackie Robinsons of American football.


“Ross provides a concise account of the pioneers who integrated pro football in the early part of the century and those who helped reintegrate the game in the era of World War II. It is a heroic yet tragic story ably told. One hopes the book might convince the pro football establishment to honor some of these stalwart athletes and coaches by enshrining them in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
—John M. Carroll, Lamar University, author of Fritz Pollard: Pioneer in Racial Advancement and Red Grange and the Rise of Modern Football

“Informative . . . Ross has opened some important doors.”
American Historical Review

“Charles Ross’ stellar research clearly demonstrates that the African American struggle for merit and equality not only extends to the playing field but has, in fact, long defined the game of professional football. A must read for students of the game, from casual gridiron enthusiasts to scholars alike.”
—C. Keith Harrison

“…offers an interesting recitation of the on-again-off-again participation of blacks in the early years of pro football.”
The Baltimore Sun

“An important analysis for all who care about the African American experience in professional sports. Significant not only for the history it tells, but for the questions it raises about race relations in football as an industry and as a United States institution.”
—Michael E. Lomax


Music Professor Publishes Book on African Drum and Dance Ensembles

Posted on: December 8th, 2015 by


WestAfricanDrummingGeorgeDorWith the first-ever published ethnographic study of West African drumming and dance in North American universities, George Worlasi Kwasi Dor offers readers a glimpse of one of Africa’s most compelling art forms while modeling true intercultural communication.

Characterized by vibrant rhythms, expressive movement and meaningful storytelling, West African dance drumming has developed through the years into an important campus subculture at universities where this music genre has been embraced.

Dor, an associate professor of music at the University of Mississippi, explores the history, differences and impact of performance courses on African ethnic dance drumming across the U.S. and Canada in “West African Drumming and Dance in North American Universities: An Ethnomusicological Perspective” (University Press of Mississippi, 2014). Through a faculty research fellowship, Dor was able to travel to several schools to study some of the most renowned West African dance-and-drum ensembles, including those at UCLA, University of California at Berkeley, Wesleyan University, Pittsburgh, Tufts and the University of Toronto.

His book also covers the creation of UM’s own African Drum and Dance Ensemble, known as OMADDE, and the key players who helped Dor’s planted seed come into fruition.

In 2003, after the university acquired several carved Ghanaian drums, Dor founded the first African dance ensemble in Mississippi. Through his direction, the OMADDE is able to bring Dor’s interest of African music study and message of love to Oxford.

“In our own way, we are advocates,” Dor said. “We are preaching the message of love, of diversity and multiculturalism on campus.”

Dr. Dor

Dr. Dor | Photo by Kevin Bain/UM Communications

The OMADDE concerts have provided engaging experiences with African culture to Ole Miss and the surrounding area for years, said Robert Riggs, UM chair and professor of music.

“Dor was ideally qualified to write this book, because he could draw both on his own practical experience as well as on his background as a widely published scholar of African music,” Riggs said. “I anticipate that his book will be received as a major contribution to a field that is of increasing importance on American campuses.”

Dor, who is originally from Ghana, emphasizes the dance traditions of his homeland in his teaching.

“Africa is so vast,” Dor said. “People tend to view Africa in a monolithic manner, whereas a single African nation-state has several ethnic groups. I come from Ghana, where the major traditions are Akan, Ewe, Ga.”

One of the songs that OMADDE has performed, called “Let’s Move on to Our Destination,” has a subtle, yet poignant message in its lyrics:

 “We’ve come so far, but because of human nature, we will make mistakes. But we will correct ourselves with and in love. Let us zoom ahead because we are pretty close to the destination.”

African Music and Dance is offered in the music department as a credit-earning course. And throughout the years, many students from different backgrounds and countries have participated in the ensemble, as well as faculty and others in the Oxford community.

“George and other ethnomusicology scholars like him have taken this genre of music and ‘transcontinentalized’ it for our western appreciation and enjoyment,” said Donald Cole, assistant provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs. “George’s text serves as part of a diversity manuscript that he directs us through at the University of Mississippi. He brings this text alive in concerts held on campus. There, the theory meets the practice and one enjoys a total appreciation of West African drumming and dance.”

Dor hopes that the book not only serves as a model where African drum and dance ensembles can learn from one another, but as a tool to create awareness and garner greater support.

“There is a tendency here to emphasize only western music and traditions,” Dor noted. “African drumming and dance has been going on for over 50 years in the U.S. and Canada, but I am the first to write about this genre.

“I’m dreaming of a time where we will all see the importance of this. The ensemble is proof that diversity can be performed, as may be evident in the composition of the ensemble, participation of the audience dancing on stage or the message of songs.”

Professor Derrick Harriell Wins Poetry Award

Posted on: November 24th, 2015 by
Dr. Harriell speaks at the Oxford Conference for the Book.

Dr. Harriell speaks at the Oxford Conference for the Book.

Derrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and African-American studies at the University of Mississippi, has the won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters 2014 Poetry Award for his new collection of poems, Ropes.

Founded in 1978, MIAL aims to recognize the elite in fiction, nonfiction, visual art, musical composition, photography and poetry. The award is coveted and highly competitive.

“Receiving the news that my collection of poems Ropes won the MIAL Award was gratifying in so many ways,” Harriell said. “I’m happy contributing to the high standard set by our English department and M.F.A. program. Having only been in Oxford for a year-and-a-half, I’m pleased to be embraced both personally and professionally.”


Ropes: Poems by Derrick Harriell, Aquarius Press/Willow Books

Ropes: Poems by Derrick Harriell, Aquarius Press/Willow Books

Cotton, Aquarius Press/Willow Books, by Derrick Harriell

Cotton, Aquarius Press/Willow Books, by Derrick Harriell

In 2010, Harriell composed his first collection of poems, Cotton. For the follow-up, Ropes, he focused on the lives of black boxers in America.

Harriell was born and raised in Milwaukee. He has a Ph.D. in English from University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and a M.F.A in Creative Writing from Chicago State University. He has worked as an assistant poetry editor for Third World Press and Cream City Review and has taught countless writing workshops for students of all ages. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, his work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies.

The award reflects well on the university, said Ivo Kamps, professor and chair of the UM Department of English.

“This is quite an honor for Derrick, for the department and the university,” Kamps said. “(Harriell) is relatively new to the university and the state of Mississippi, but he is already making a significant impact on our literary culture and our students. We are pleased and fortunate to have him on our faculty.”