Pew Fellow of the Week: An Interview with Writer Imani Perry


Imani Perry stands with a hand resting against her face. She has light brown skin and tight dark brown curls. She wears a white striped blouse.

Imani Perry, 2019 Pew Fellow.

Our “Pew Fellow of the Week” series focuses on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.

Writer Imani Perry (2019) spoke to us about her search for humanity in her research, the ethical considerations that drive her work, and what makes Philadelphia a “Blackness-of-all-sorts kind of place.”

Perry crafts her writing in the African American literary tradition, drawing on various fields of scholarship such as law, social sciences, music, and cultural studies. She has written several books on Black historical topics, including May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem, Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry, and More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Racial Inequality in the United States. Her next book, South To America: A Journey Below the Mason Dixon Line to Understand the Soul of a Nation, will be published in fall of 2021.

Imani Perry Q&A Block 1

Imani Perry Q&A Block 2

What is your daily writing routine? How has it changed during the pandemic?

I write everyday. I always have. I have to write something. I probably have hypergraphia because most of what I write doesn’t make it into print, but it is a necessary activity for me. It anchors me and excites me.

What images or things keep you company in the space where you work?

I love visual art, I love flowers, and I love my family. So that’s what I keep around in addition to stacks of books. My current screensaver is a picture of an ancestor born in 1897 to whom I have an uncanny resemblance. I stay on Facebook because I like to see my family in real time, and they’re mostly in Alabama.



Imani Perry’s home workspace, featuring an original painting by Vivian Schuyler Key.


Imani Perry Q&A Block 3

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