Students engaged in classroom discussion.

Preface First-Year Reading and Writing Program

Preface is a first-year reading program that introduces students to the joy of academic inquiry. As such, it combines guided reading of a selected text with co-curricular events in which students discuss questions raised by the text with university, community and national experts. During this program, first-year students read the Preface text in English 101 and most University 101 courses and attend related events in both English 101 and 102.  

While Preface is geared primarily toward first-year students, it offers a calendar of events that are relevant to a wide range of university courses as well as the community. Therefore the events are planned in close cooperation with various departments and offices of USC Upstate and most events are free and open to the public. This fall, first-year writing students will read The Fire This Time, a collection edited by Jesmyn Ward.

The Fire This Time

Preface 2017

National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward takes James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, as a jumping off point for this groundbreaking collection of essays and poems about race from the most important voices of her generation and our time.

In light of recent tragedies and widespread protests across the nation, The Progressive magazine republished one of its most famous pieces: James Baldwin’s 1962 “Letter to My Nephew,” which was later published in his landmark book, The Fire Next Time. Addressing his fifteen-year-old namesake on the one hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Baldwin wrote: “You know and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon.”

Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward knows that Baldwin’s words ring as true as ever today. In response, she has gathered short essays, memoir, and a few essential poems to engage the question of race in the United States. And she has turned to some of her generation’s most original thinkers and writers to give voice to their concerns.

The Fire This Time is divided into three parts that shine a light on the darkest corners of our history, wrestle with our current predicament, and envision a better future. Of the 18 pieces, 10 were written specifically for this volume.

In the 50-odd years since Baldwin’s essay was published, entire generations have dared everything and made significant progress. But the idea that we are living in the post-Civil Rights era, that we are a “post-racial” society is an inaccurate and harmful reflection of a truth the country must confront. Baldwin’s “fire next time” is now upon us, and it needs to be talked about.

Contributors include Carol Anderson, Jericho Brown, Garnette Cadogan, Edwidge Danticat, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Mitchell S. Jackson, Honoree Jeffers, Kima Jones, Kiese Laymon, Daniel Jose Older, Emily Raboteau, Claudia Rankine, Clint Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Wendy S. Walters, Isabel Wilkerson, and Kevin Young.

Preface Goals

The intent of this series of programs is to help USC Upstate first-year students make connections to each other and to the university, to practice skills that contribute to success in college, and to discuss how a deeper understanding of a shared reading can inform the way we make personal decisions and influence public policy today.

  • Thursday, Aug. 31, URC Greatroom, 6 - 7:45 p.m.

    “I Am Not Your Negro”

    Documentary. Filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin was writing at the time of his death on the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.

    Tuesday, Sept. 5, CLC Ballroom, 6 - 7 p.m.

    “An Introduction to James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time”

    Dr. Warren Carson, Professor of African American Literature and Studies.

    Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, Campus Life Center Ballroom, 6 - 7 p.m.

    “ ‘What’d I Say’: Words, Race, and Rage”

    Dr. Carmen Harris, Professor of History

    Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, Health Education Complex, 2039, 6-7 p.m.

    Da Art of Story Telling

    Lucosi Fuller, adjunct instructor of English

    Thursday, Sept. 21, CLC Ballroom, 6 - 7 p.m.

    “Invisible Woman? One Black Woman's Leadership Struggle”

    Dr. Shelia Counts, Adjunct Instructor of English

    Wednesday, Sept.  27, CLC Ballroom 6 - 7 p.m.

    “Loving and the Color Line: Cross-Racial Families and African American Studies”

    Dr. Colleen O’Brien, Associate Professor of English, African-American Studies, and Women’s Studies

    Thursday, Sept. 28, G.B Hodge Center, 6 - 7 p.m.

    Keynote Address

    Rev. Eric S. C. Manning, Senior Pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina

    Thursday, Oct. 5, CLC Ballroom, 6 - 7 p.m.

    “Building a Better Future Together”

    Panel led by Mr. Michael D. Brown, President of NAACP-Spartanburg

    Thursday, Oct. 12, URC Greatroom, 6 - 8 p.m.


    2017 Academy Award Winner for Best Picture. A chronicle of the childhood, adolescence, and burgeoning adulthood of a young, African-American, gay man growing up in a rough neighborhood in Miami.

    Wednesday, Oct. 25, CLC Ballroom, 6 - 7:30 p.m.

    “The Fire This Time”

    Conversation led by Speaking Down Barriers, an award-winning organization whose work has been covered by USA Today.

    Thursday, Oct. 26, HEC 2037, 4-5 p.m.

    Winston Wingo, "The African-American Architect and Artist"

    Wednesday, Nov. 1, CLC Ballroom, 6-7 p.m.

    Workshop on Microagression

    Dr. Colleen O’Brien, Associate Professor of English, African-American Studies, and Women’s Studies

    Wednesday, Nov. 8, CLC Ballroom, 6-7 p.m. 

    "My Journey to the FBI"

    Mr. Alphonso "Jody" Norris, the first African-American Special Agent in Charge, Columbia Division, FBI.