Nikky Finney’s National Book Award Speech

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“We begin with history. The slave codes of South Carolina, 1739,” begins Nikky Finney’s 2011 National Book Award acceptance speech for Head Off & Split (Northwestern University Press, 2011), where she traces the history of literacy in her own life and in the lives of African Americans. Finney is the recipient of the 2020 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, conferred annually to honor outstanding artistic achievement over a poet’s career.

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