Award-winning novelist Marita Golden has been named interim director of the nonprofit Hurston/Wright Foundation–named in honor of famed African American writers Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright–following the appointment of a new board of directors and the resignation of the foundation’s longtime executive director and cofounder, Clyde McElvene.
In early October, McElvene, executive director, CEO, and a cofounder of the organization together with Golden, resigned after 23 years. In addition to being a cofounder, Golden also was previously president emeritus. In a widely circulated memo, McElvene explained that he resigned because, in his view, “The principles and values upon which Hurston/Wright was founded are no longer being adhered to.”
“As co-founder and executive director, Clyde gave many years of service to the foundation,” Golden told PW. “Clyde planned to step down in July of next year but he chose to resign at this time. We hope that we can work with him in the future.”
The Hurston/Wright Foundation was started in 1990 with a mission to “to discover, educate, mentor, and develop African American writers.” In addition to providing writing workshops the foundation presents an annual series of literary awards (including the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards) to the best writers of African descent.
Golden added that under the new board, the foundation is gearing up for its 25th anniversary in 2015. “Our legacy is very well respected and supported. We are going through growth and evolution, and working hard to stabilize the foundation's programs and strengthen the overall structure of the organization,” Golden said.
Part of the plan is to enhance the local focus to capitalize on what she sees as the increasing importance of literature in the Washington D.C. area. Soon to resume operation are the Hurston/Wright writing workshops: the teen writing workshop, the weekend intensive workshops (in summer 2014), and weeklong writing workshops (summer 2015). Also, Golden noted that Hurston/Wright is in partnership talks with “two important literary institutions in the D.C. area.”
In an interview with PW, McElvene said that for the past four years the day-to-day operations of the foundation had been handled by himself and his daughter Elizabeth Williams, who has been v-p of communications and director of program development for the last 11 years. “Marita was president emeritus, which took her away from the activities. Also, board member participation and philosophies and activity decreased,” McElvene explained. “In the spring, our new board was installed, and they’re fairly active. [My resignation has] more to do with the board not having time enough to understand the details of the day-to-day running of a small nonprofit organization.”
In November, McElvene plans to launch McElvene & Associates, a literary consulting company. “I’m still concerned with mentoring African American writers, so I’ll be using my expertise and experience to provide advice for readers and writers of African and African American literature. What qualifies me is 30 years of experience that has given me access to every aspect of the publishing industry.”
McElvene & Associates will also continue to partner with the Howard University Bookstore to produce the book fair for the Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus, which the Hurston/Wright Foundation has produced for the past four years. This fall the fair featured 3,500 new and backlisted titles, of which more than 700 were children’s books.