Conference hosts black mystery writers

by Lynne Kozarek

Mystery lovers at the University didn’t have to look far to find a good whodunit last week, as the University played host to such notable black writers as Walter Mosley, author of “Devil in a Blue Dress.”
The Black Mystery Writers Symposium, which took place last Thursday and Friday, was held at the St. Paul Radisson Hotel. In conjunction with the symposium, a fund-raiser was held Thursday at Landmark Center. The fund-raiser was for the benefit of the Givens Collection of African-American literature, which is housed in Wilson library.
The conference, the first ever of its kind, is an offshoot of the popular Boucheron 27 mystery writers convention, an annual conference held in a different city each year.
Leslie Denny, assistant to the director for University Conference Services, said that there has never been a conference like this before and that hundreds of people attended.
“This is a national event,” Denny said, “and there has been a great demand by authors for something like this.”
The symposium was attended by 17 prominent black mystery writers. Authors delivered speeches on such topics as the forefathers of black mystery fiction and the black detective in the white mind.
Author Paula Woods discussed the evolution of the black detective.
In her lecture Woods gave her interpretation of why there was such a demand for black mystery fiction.
“We are always sleuthing,” Woods said, “We are always detecting. We are always inside and outside of our skins simultaneously.”
Several authors paid tribute to Archie Givens Jr. in their speeches. Givens and the Patrons’ Council of African-American community leaders have compiled the Givens Collection of African-American literature.
The Givens collection was donated in honor of Archie Givens Sr., who was a strong supporter of higher education for minority youth.
“We wanted to create a living legacy for my father,” said Givens Jr. “We have collected over 6,000 volumes in 10 years.”
Givens Jr. also said that the jewel in the crown of the collection is a first-edition copy of Phyllis Wheatley’s book “Poems,” published in 1773. It was the first book published by an African-American author.
Givens Jr. said that the University has been extremely helpful in supporting the collection.
University President Nils Hasselmo “is very excited about this, and it has been so well received here,” Givens Jr. said, “This collection is a treasure for the community and the University.”