Mercy Alumna’s Books on Black History and Culture Added to U.S. Library of Congress Collection

Mercy University alumna Chanel Murray

The U.S. Library of Congress recently added two books written by educator, actress and advocate for racial equity Chanel Murray, M.Ed. ’06, to its collection. Published in 2022, the books celebrate Black history and Black culture. “All Black Errythang: Poems” explores what it means to be Black in America with poems on topics including resistance, Black hair, Juneteenth, gentrification and language. “All Black Errythang: A Discussion and Action Guide” helps readers unpack the poems and learn more about the topics explored.

The fact that her books were accepted into the U.S. Library of Congress collection holds meaning for Murray that goes far beyond personal pride. “When the Library of Congress was built, my ancestors were legally prohibited from reading and writing,” she said. “And now there are two books in its collection called ‘All Black Errythang.’ These books celebrate Blackness in a place that once penalized it.”

Cover and art of books “All Black Errythang: Poems" and “All Black Errythang: A Discussion and Action Guide”

Murray began writing poetry during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I couldn’t stop thinking about resistance,” she said. “Many of us were taught to solely credit Abraham Lincoln for our emancipation, but there is more to that story. My ancestors fought for their freedom long before it was won. They used their understanding of the sciences as tools to attain freedom, braided maps to freedom in their hair and used songs to tell others how to escape. In fact, I grew up singing some of those songs in church but didn’t know the history and brilliance of them then. This led to the first poem I wrote, ‘We Resisted.’”

Though several years have passed since she studied education at Mercy, Murray remembers lively class discussions at Mercy about some of the topics she writes about now, such as whether African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is an actual language. (Murray says that it most certainly is.)

An educator for more than 16 years, Murray knew early in her writing process that she wanted to create a discussion guide to accompany her poetry book. “I wanted to make sure teachers could bring these topics into their classrooms with the right tools to unpack them,” she explained.

“Black history is American history, period,” Murray said. “Black culture has and continues to greatly influence the world. The poems are meant to affirm, teach and remind people that Blackness is dope.”

Both “All Black Errythang” books are available for purchase from Amazon. For additional information about Murray and her work, visit her website.

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