Poet Jaki Shelton Green is breaking barriers for Black women in the literary world. Green—a professor at Duke University—was recently named North Carolina’s ninth poet laureate; making her the first African American woman to receive the honor, the Charlotte Post reported.
Individuals who are named poet laureates are recognized for their poignant work and serve as literary representatives for the state, penning poems and speeches for a variety of different events, the news outlet writes. Over the course of her career, Green has authored eight poetry anthologies and edited two poetry books. She also took her writing talents to the realm of theater, writing a script for a play. Her powerful work has been recognized by the state in the past, garnering her awards that include the 2013 North Carolina Award for Literature and a 2014 induction into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.
Her impact goes far beyond writing. Green—who leads documentary poetry courses at Duke—has launched several programs for domestic violence victims, the homeless, the incarcerated and other populations who are in need of help. She’s hosted a variety of different workshops for nonprofits and educational institutions. She will succeed Shelby Stephenson who has held the position since 2015.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper says Green was chosen for the role because she “brings a deep appreciation of the state’s diverse communities.” Governor Cooper also added that Green—who has had a 40-year career in literature and academia—will brilliantly lead a new chapter in the state’s literary history.
Green is humbled by the honor. “I am deeply touched to be named poet laureate,” she told the news outlet. “To serve as North Carolina’s representative for poetry and the spoken word is a tremendous honor.” She’s slated to transition into the role later this summer.