Birmingham Reads: Who Bears the Legacy of Slavery?

Birmingham Reads

Join the Hoover Public Library and PEN America Birmingham for an interactive community discussion on the legacy of slavery in Birmingham by examining genealogy and family histories. Using Imani Perry’s South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation as a discussion guide, this conversation will cover the themes of racial terror & violence, displacement, and identity.

This event is a part a series of ongoing events within the Birmingham Reads Project, a citywide literary event dedicated to engaging and uniting Birmingham community members in reading one book of fiction or nonfiction in one given year and then discussing it in book groups and at events throughout the city. This year’s selection, South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation by Birmingham native Imani Perry, is a sprawling and ambitious book that brings together the perspective of a distinguished historian and the personal narrative of a native-born southerner to better understand the beauty, tragedy, and soul of this country.

Teaching artists Brianna Jordynn “B.J.” Wright and Tania De’Shawn will lead attendees though a dynamic session to better understand the selected text, conceptually define slavery to understand the complexities and nuances of its legacy, and utilize library resources to explore family history and heritage. 

Please note: You don’t have to have read South to America to enjoy this dynamic and interactive event. 


Brianna Jordynn “B.J.” Wright headshotBrianna Jordynn “B.J.” Wright is a writer, educator and scholar based in Birmingham, AL. In 2019, she graduated cum laude from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, obtaining her Bachelors of Arts degrees in Anthropology (minor in Women’s Studies) and African American Studies (concentration in Historical Investigation and Cultural Awareness). She is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts degree in Africana Studies from Georgia State University (concentration in Community Empowerment). She takes inspiration from classic scholars such as Dr. W.E.B. Du Boise, Zora Neale Hurston, Harold Cruse, Audrey Lorde, Dr. Huey P. Newton, bell hooks, and Toni Morrison. Her current research interests include, but are not limited to the impact of language policing on Black adolescents, the role of Blackness in comics and anime, and conceptually defining the Master’s House.

Tania De'Shawn headshotTania De’Shawn is a poet, teaching artist, and entrepreneur. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Berea College; she is the author of her debut poetry collection, Be Gentle with Black Girls. Her collection serves as an entry point to addressing the adultification bias that negatively affects the education and social development of Black girls across the nation. She is set to be the Keynote Speaker for the Birmingham Public Libraries Local Authors series to further discuss her book and hold an open discussion on how to address the adultification bias within her community. Her collection was nominated for the 2022 VIP Heavy Hearts Neighborhood Award. Tania’s poetry has been featured at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Sidewalk Film Festival, Birmingham Public Library, the historic Majesty Lounge, and more. Her co-choreographed choreopoem “Sister Circle” debuted at the Berea College Kinetic Expressions showcase in 2018. She uses her craft to keep the legacy of Ntozake Shange alive by teaching choreopoetry to artists of all ages and backgrounds. Tania is currently based in Birmingham; she serves the community as a volunteer with Flourish Alabama, which helps young artists bloom. Tania is the founder of Element Agape, an organization that nourishes artists to create art that affects social change.

This project was made possible by: 

In partnership with:

PEN Across America Birmingham chapter logo