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Akasha Gloria Hull

Poet, writer, historian and critic Akasha Gloria Hull is the author of Soul Talk: The New Spirituality of African American Women. The book is an compelling blend of stories, practical advice about spirituality in daily life, and intimate conversations with some of American's most influential black writers, including Alice Walker, Lucille Clifton, Toni Cade Bambara, Sonia Sanchez, Michele Gibbs, Dolores Kendrick, Masani Alexis De Veaux, Namonyah Soipan and Geraldine McIntosh. Topics include healing, race, Christianity, New Age religion, African and neo-African spirituality, feminism, creativity, and communing with one's ancestors.

Akasha Gloria Hull is also the author of Healing Heart (1989), a volume of original poetry. Other works include Color, Sex and Poetry: Three Women of the Harlem Renaissance (1987), Give Us Each Day: The Diary of Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1986), and the ground-breaking curriculum guide, All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave (1982), a vigorous assertion of the black female voice in response to its marginalization by the feminist and civil rights movements. The book received both the Outstanding Women of Color Award and the Women Educator's Curriculum Material Award.

Akasha Gloria Hull has received fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the American Association of University Women. Since 1988, she has served as Professor of Women's Studies and Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Akasha Gloria Hull is a writer, professor of literature and women's studies, lecturer, and consultant. Her previous books include Healing Heart: Poems, 1973-1988 (Kitchen Table, Women of Color Press, 1989); editor, The Works of Alice Dunbar-Nelson (Oxford University Press, 1988); Color, Sex and Poetry: Three Women of the Harlem Renaissance (Indiana University Press, 1987); editor, Give Us Each Day: A Diary of Alice Dunbar-Nelson (W.W. Norton, 1984); and co-editor, All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies (Feminist Press, 1982). She lives in northern California.

"Along with Toni Morrison, Charlotte Carter, and Lois Elaine Griffith, we are blessed with another foreign tongue: the voice of a free, fearsome, sensual and vivid woman of color. [Akasha] Gloria Hull is 'family.' She's one of us. She means to live." - Ntozake Shange on Healing Heart

"[The] truths that waft up from this powerful, practical and nourishing gumbo make interesting reading for anyone. In this intelligent work of the heart and spirit, Hull reveals the exquisite and reflective interiors of African-American women." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Soul Talk is a worthy tribute to Toni Cade Bambara and to the lives and work of African American women writers." - Toni Morrison, author of Beloved and Paradise

Gloria Hull grew up in a three-room shotgun house in Shreveport, Louisiana. Neither of her parents finished grammar school. Her mother was a cook and a domestic. Her father was disabled, but did whatever kind of work he could pick up as a carpenter. She considered her upbringing to be working poor:

I remember very clearly that my mother made three dollars a day. She did that so that my brother and sister and I would be able to go on trips at school, or have a white dress at graduation. Early memories that situate me class-wise were that there was no liquid money, so we kept a running tab going with the Italian grocer at the end of the block. We were paying very high prices for whatever we bought, but were able to pay him with the little bit of money that did come in. I remember that the days that we bought food were really the high point of the weekdays. Food was essential.

Hull graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1962 as the valedictorian of her class. She went to Southern University, and then won a National Defense Education Act fellowship to the University of Illinois at Urbana to study English literature:

What I really wanted to do was be a journalist. The first time I got out of the South and saw a little bit of the larger world was between my junior and senior years [of college]. There was this program where Black kids from Southern colleges were brought to Northern campuses, and I spent the summer at Yale working with the New Haven Human Relations Council. I had written for the high school newspaper, the college newspaper, so I said journalism, that’s really what I want to do. I had heard that Columbia was one of the best journalism schools in the country. When I was in New Haven, I figured out how to get myself to New York City and I had an interview with the assistant dean at the Columbia School of Journalism. This is the summer of ‘65. I’m just walking around with no sense that I’d be afraid or anything; I’m just doing this. It was a really good interview, and I feel that I might have gotten somewhere with it, but no one encouraged me. The highest aspiration anybody could see me doing or achieving was being a teacher. With the grades and the fellowship, “teacher” got translated into “college teacher,” but still a teacher. So, that is how I ended up in graduate school for English.

Before Hull went to graduate school, she married her college sweetheart, who had graduated the year before her from Southern and had gone to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. He came from a family that was even more economically disadvantaged than hers: he had one pair of jeans that he had to wash out at night and dry in front of a space heater, iron, and put on the next morning. There were twelve children in his family. After spending one semester at Urbana, Hull gave up her fellowship and went to be with her husband at Purdue, where she became a teaching assistant. Her husband got a job at the University of Delaware when Hull was finishing her dissertation and looking for a job:

When I look back on this, I laugh about how tremendously naive I was. I mean naive in the sense of not knowing the protocol for academic professionalism. I went down there to see the chairman of the English department at the University of Delaware with my husband, with my son on my lap, dressed up in my Sunday School-type chic dress, little heels. I didn’t know from beans, so they offered me this position. I didn’t know that I could bargain or anything. The reason he was just sitting there amazed is that a Black woman had dropped in their laps. Another little index of it is that I didn’t even know how to do a professional vita. I had on it stuff like, I played piano for the Black Baptist church that I grew up in. There was no Black woman to say, “This is how you do it”; nobody took me under her wing. It is so different now.

During three years in Delaware, Hull made connections that would change her life and inevitably link her to the Combahee River Collective. She ended up working on the Feminist Reprints Committee, where she met Florence Howe and Alice Walker. Although she had done her dissertation on Byron and English dramatic poetry, she had become interested in Black women writers and African American literature, particularly the women writers of the Harlem Renaissance. When she went to the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association in New York City in 1974, she met Barbara Smith. Having met Smith and the rest of the Boston women, she began to attend Combahee retreats to expand her network of Black feminist thinking.

Source:  http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/hull_gloria.html



Soul Talk
Soul Talk: The New Spirituality of African American Women

But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies

Healing Heart: Poems 1973-1988


Works of Alice Dunbar Nelson (Schomburg Library on Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers)


Color, Sex and Poetry: Three Women Writers of the Harlem Renaissance (Everywoman: Studies in History, Literature & Culture)

Give Us Each Day: The Diary of Alice Dunbar-Nelson