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Meet Natalie Graham

Celebrating the American Experience Through Poetry, Literature and Music

March 18, 2014

African American woman wearing a denim jacket

Natalie Graham

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Natalie Graham loves language — in poetry and literature and music.

The Florida native followed her passion to a bachelor's degree in English and anthropology and a master of fine arts in creative writing and poetry.

"I worked with the African-American program at the University of Florida, helping them put together a Langston Hughes Poetry event," explains the assistant professor of African American studies. "It was a perfect segway into the field of African American studies. After the event, I was asked to stay on, and I taught as an adjunct faculty member."

Graham had never thought about pursuing a doctorate, but after teaching for three years, "I learned that that was what I wanted to do. ... "

She earned her doctorate in American studies at Michigan State University, where she also served as assistant to the director of the campus's Upward Bound Program. Her doctoral dissertation focused on the language, race and culture in the music of hip hop through the work of artist Lil' Wayne.

"It was sort of a windy path," she says discussing her educational path. "I'm so grateful I fell into the spots that I did. I wouldn't have even known where to go without my experiences."

Language continues to be a moving force in her current research. Graham is studying popular U.S. music, African American masculinity and presentation, contemporary U.S. poetry and poetics, as well as Southern literature and culture, including "how Southern whites used music and literature to mend the broken relationships between the North and South."

She is sharing her passion for language and poetry with students not only in the courses she teaches, but through poetry workshops. Graham has held one this year and hopes to offer two more before the end of the semester.

Graham also is interested in public scholarship and service learning. "I'm also looking into ways of expanding student engagement outside the classroom, ways to help them develop their critical thinking skills.

"I enjoy teaching, having that opportunity to get to know students and share language and music with them."

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