Bernard Clay-med

Coal Black Voices


An intimate mosaic of poetry and storytelling by the Affrilachian Poets as they give glimpses of life in the American Black South

Product Description

The poetry of the Affrilachian Poets celebrates their African heritage and rural roots while encompassing themes of the African diaspora, racism and Black identity.

This ensemble of African American writers challenge simple notions of an all white Appalachian region and literary culture while drawing on traditions such as the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and experiences of the African Diaspora.  In this documentary they give voice to the pleasures of family, land, good food, artistic community, music and transformation.

Featuring Nikky Finney, National Book Award for Poetry 2011; Frank X Walker, 2014 recipient of the NAACP Image Award and former Kentucky State Poet Laureate; Crystal Wilkinson, Kelly Norman Ellis, Ricardo Nazario-Colon, Paul C. Taylor, Mitchell L.H. Douglass, Bernard Clay, Daundra Scisney-Givens and Shanna Smith.

FREE Downloadable classroom curriculum.


“The poems in Coal Black Voices evoke delicious details from the writers lives that can evoke delicious details from students’ lives, and a rhythm so alive, I want to dance when I hear them  — a valuable educational resource for engaging students in African American experience and literary traditions.” Dr. Linda Christensen, Director of the Oregon Writing Project (OWP), Graduate School of Education, Lewis & Clark College
“Teaching the Affrilachian Poets to my students, many of whom are from Kentucky, is a revelation. These students, black and white, are excited to see their own life experiences represented by these gifted poets, especially founder Frank X Walker, former Poet Laureate of Kentucky. Incorporating the outstanding video Coal Black Voices brings the texts to life and adds depth to classroom discussion. In addition, I believe the video is important in a larger arena because hearing from the authors directly enriches our understanding of how Affrilachian perspectives are such essential additions to our regional and national conversation. I find particularly vibrant this video’s combination of interview, reading, commentary, and performance—it’s one thing to hear a writer read her poem, and it’s something else entirely to see a poem recited and danced by a group of students. In short, Coal Black Voices is a brilliant and valuable resource that deeply enhances my students’ learning; I couldn’t teach this literature without it.” Dr. Kris Yohe, Professor of English, Northern Kentucky University
Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry, Nikky Finney

Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry, Nikky Finney

Watch video clip of Nikky Finney reading from her poem Brown Country

Watch video clip of Kelly Norman Ellis, I Was Raised By Women



Festival Pick – Athens International Film and Video Festival 2002

Featured – Indaba: Three Days of Coal Black Voices 2002

Official Selection and Featured – Santa Fe African Diaspora Film Festival 2003

Official Selection – Atlanta Film Festival’s Civil Rights Film Series 2004

Honored – The African Effect:  The Contemporary African Diaspora, Santa Fe Center for Contemporary Arts 2004

Wisconsin Book Festival, Madison, Wisconsin 2012

Lyric Theater, Roots Festival. Lexington, Kentucky 2013

2002-2003 Jesse Stuart Award presented by the Kentucky School Media Association


2001 to present – Regional public television WKET reaching Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Broadcast 2004, regional public television throughout Ohio.


Nikky Finney, Playing By Ear, the Poetry of James Baldwin, March 3, 2014, from Poetry Magazine.

Kentucky Muse from Kentucky Educational Television

Nikky Finney’s Acceptance Speech for the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry, an awe inspiring reading and “the best acceptance speech ever” -  John Lithgow. This is not to be missed.

Frank X Walker Creative Solutions to Life’s Challenges on NPR

Frank X Walker’s Kentucky State Poet Laureate Acceptance Speech recorded by Old Cove Press

Produced and directed by Fred Johnson and Jean Donohue

Coal Black Voices was produced with support from the KET Fund for Independent Production, The Wexner Center Media Arts Program, The Ohio State University, Kentucky Arts Council, Ohio Arts Council, Kentucky Humanities Council, Ohio Humanities Council and Media Working Group. Visit the Coal Black Voices web site to learn more about the production. DVD 54:30 min

If you’re interested in a copy for home use $34.99 + $6 shipping, please contact us at mail(at)mwg(dot)org



Additional Information


DVD – Institutional, DVD – Home