Passion for Justice Defines Professor's Poetry

Fred Hord’s "Into Africa, Being Black" Explores Issues of Race, Gender, and Class

December 09, 2013

Fred Hord and his new book

by Nicole Acton

Fred Lee Hord's passion for social justice defines his work in the classroom as chair of the Africana Studies program. His drive to explore issues of race, gender, and class is also apparent in his fourth book of poetry, Into Africa, Being Black, published by Third World Press this August.

The poems in this collection span 40 years, but are united by Hord's deep understanding of Black culture and the many issues, both internal and external, that define it. "Dr. Hord's poetry is socio-political commentary as well as an emergency call to recognize the importance of Black/African culture," says Haki R. Madhubuti, a prominent African American educator and poet, who published Hord's first book in 1974 and wrote the foreword of Into Africa, Being Black.

Hord believes that artists have an obligation not only to express themselves, but to make a contribution to society. His concern with intra-racial class issues can be seen in his poem "Black Seed":

Too many brothers
rot in high places
without ever entering
the mouth of their history.

"Poetry is a powerful form that has the ability to make people think," says Hord. "If ideas have the power to get attention, then potentially they have the power to change."

When Hord arrived at Knox College in 1988, there were only three courses related to black studies. Over the last 25 years, Hord has led Africana Studies in its transformation into a thriving program with a wide range of courses. Since coming to Knox, Hord has also founded the Association for Black Culture Centers, which celebrates, promotes, and critically examines the culture of people of African descent. Knox is the national headquarters of the organization that now includes more than 200 colleges and universities.

Hord says that his writing is deeply informed by his work with students. "Students have a profound impact on what I say in poems and how I say it," he says. He is constantly surprised by the students he works with -- by their insight, their strength of conviction, and their hope.

"If I don't learn something from my students in the 10 weeks, the course has been less successful," says Hord. "I'm here not only to expand their knowledge base. I'm here to learn."