In 1972, the Archie and Phebe Mae Givens Foundation was established to provide scholarships in support of the academic success of African American students in the Twin Cities. In 1985, the focus of the Givens Foundation’s mission shifted to African American literature when the Foundation partnered with 10 community families and the University of Minnesota to purchase a 3,000 piece-collection of African American Literature from a New York collector. As a growing and unique collection of more than 18,000 African American literary works and cultural objects representing more than 230 years of African American literature and life, the Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature continues to inspire the mission and programs of the Givens Foundation.

Today, the Givens Foundation for African American Literature is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization with a mission to advance cultural understanding and learning through programs that inspire a passion for African American literature and writers. We envision a world where all people see themselves reflected in the creation and enjoyment of culture, and where the Black experience and communities of color are central to the sharing of story in all its forms. Our core values are that Black creativity is central to contemporary culture, that Black voices and stories are essential, and that culturally responsive engagement will lead to equality.

Givens Foundation programs engage nearly 4,000 students, educators, readers and writers in the Twin Cities each year.

  • Our innovative literary arts K12 Education Partnerships have supported the academic engagement of more than 8,000 Twin Cities students by delivering Black literary artists and storytellers into classrooms to use African American literature as a springboard for teaching reading and writing.  
  • Our Readings & Talks have explored the state of the art of African American literature with literary masters such as Amiri Baraka, Angela Davis, Yusef Komunyakaa, Ishmael Reed, Sonia Sanchez, Ntozake Shange, and John Edgar Wideman.
  • Our Givens Emerging Writers’ Mentor Program pairs national and state mentoring authors with emerging Black writers to promote the “writing life” and to seed the future of African American literature.
  • Our Givens Black Books Community Reading Campaign has increased access to quality literature, and has featured events that encourage reading as an integral part of daily life for more than 2000 participants annually.