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Black Folk Could Fly: Celebrating the work of Randall Kenan. Sunday September 11, 4PM Hill Hall, UNC Campus. Free and open to the public.

On Sunday, September 11, 2022 we celebrated the publication of the recent collection of Randall Kenan’s unpublished works.


Our beloved colleague and friend Randall Kenan was one of the most influential writers in America. Hailing from a small town in Duplin County, Randall came to Carolina to find his voice as a writer. And find it, he did—Randall’s clear-eyed vision of the South set the tone for a generation of writers. This September, we’ll honor that voice by celebrating the release of Black Folk Could Fly, a collection of his extraordinary essays. Touching on subjects ranging from the women who raised him to James Baldwin to the lowlands of eastern North Carolina, these essays reveal the tenderness and heart behind Randall’s powerful intellect. We hope you will join us as we remember the life and work of a writer whose legacy will shape American letters for decades to come.
—Ross White, Director of the Creative Writing Program


Photo Credit: Chris Leary Photography

Alane Salierno Mason

Vice President and Executive Editor

W.W. Norton & Company

Photo Credit: Tyson Alan Horne

Tayari Jones

Author of An American Marriage

Faculty, Emory University

Photo Credit: Justin Barbin

E. Patrick Johnson

Author of Sweet Tea

Dean, School of Communication Northwestern University

Black Folk Could Fly

“A personal, social, and intellectual self-portrait of the beloved and enormously influential late Randall Kenan, a master of both fiction and nonfiction.

Virtuosic in his use of literary forms, nurtured and unbounded by his identities as a Black man, a gay man, an intellectual, and a Southerner, Randall Kenan was known for his groundbreaking fiction. Less visible were his extraordinary nonfiction essays, published as introductions to anthologies and in small journals, revealing countless facets of Kenan’s life and work.”

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Praise for Black Folk Could Fly

Each essay in this collection is an education an illumination, a bridge from the past to the present, to the future, as long as Randall Kenan’s writing is read … The result is a book you sit with instead of rush through, lingering like you might with a friend when you just don’t want to say goodbye
—Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

Few writers are as secure in their various identities as [Kenan] was and as generous in celebrating the worlds of others. This collection is a tribute to one of the great writers in the African American tradition and assures his place in the canon.
—Henry Louis Gates Jr., author of The Black Church

A superb introduction to a writer deserving much greater recognition.

—Kirkus Review

Support the Randall Kenan Memorial Fund

In honor of Randall Kenan’s extraordinary legacy as a writer, we have created the Randall Kenan Memorial Fund. Our hope is to establish a program in his name reflecting Randall’s strong commitment to the value of bringing fellow writers to campus to nurture Carolina’s literary culture and enrich its intellectual environment. Your support enables us to honor Randall’s belief in the power of words and writers to promote vital conversations and to change our world.

More About Randall Kenan