Our History

Organization was founded in Minneapolis, MN, October 20, 1972 by Archie Givens, Sr. and Phebe Mae Givens as a scholarship program for Twin Cities Black students interested in attending college. In 1974, the focus of The Foundation changed to supporting innovative projects with a focus on Black American literature.
In 1985, The Foundation led efforts to purchase and preserve a 3,000-piece collection of African American Literature and other culturally significant items; created the Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature, to be located at the Elmer L. Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Members of The Givens Collection Patron’s Council along with University of Minnesota Library staff are pictured below.
Between 2004-2020, The Foundation’s NOMMO African American Authors Series brought national and regional authors to broad and diverse audiences within the Twin Cities cultural landscape (NOMMO is a Dogon word meaning “the magic power of the word.”). These events provided rare opportunities to publicly define and explore the state of the art of Black American literature and to showcase the work and contributions of Black American writers within the literary tradition. The majority of the lectures were moderated by Twin Cities author Alexis Pate.
An outgrowth of the NOMMO African American Authors Series was the establishment of the Emerging Writers’ Mentor Program. Through feedback from local Black writers, there was a need to establish a Mentoring Program for aspiring Minnesota-based Black writers. The program was designed to have a group of local writers participate in a two-day workshop with the featured NOMMO African American author. The Foundation also learned from this experience, that it was necessary to have experienced local Black writers serve as mentors to these Emerging Writers for a least a year after they attended the Emerging Writers’ Mentor Program. On several occasions after the local mentoring program was concluded, there were public celebratory reading events showcasing the talent of the writers.
The Foundation continues its mission to enrich and educate communities through the promotion of African American literature and heritage. In the present day, it builds upon its legacy of educational initiatives and community engagement, offering an array of programs that include literary workshops, artist residencies in schools, and public book discussions. These efforts are aimed at fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of African American literary contributions, encouraging critical thinking and creativity among students of all ages. The Foundation has also expanded its digital presence, providing online resources and virtual events to reach a broader audience. Through partnerships with local schools, libraries, and cultural institutions, it remains committed to reducing educational disparities and promoting inclusivity. Additionally, the Foundation continues to support emerging and established African American writers, offering them platforms to showcase their work and engage with communities. This ongoing work underscores the Foundation’s dedication to celebrating African American culture and literature as vital components of a diverse and dynamic society.