Colyer Garners Drake Writing Award

Reagan Colyer

Reagan Colyer, a student in the African-American Studies program, is the 2014-15 winner of the Richard Drake Award for undergraduate writing. This highly competitive award honors excellence in writing within the humanities.

Colyer wrote her paper, “‘Have You Got Good Religion?’: The SNCC Freedom Singers and American Civil Rights,” for the African-American Studies class, “Prayer and Civil Rights,” taught by African-American Studies director Tobin Miller Shearer.

In Shearer’s letter of nomination, he wrote, “Reagan’s writing sparkles. Her clean prose married with a strong grasp of structure and narrative make for a remarkably accessible reading experience, one all the more impressive given the sophisticated level of analysis evident in her work. I have seldom encountered a student for whom I had to offer little to no instruction in the mechanics of lucid prose. Reagan writes like a pro.”

Colyer invites her readers to consider the peripatetic efforts of the Freedom Singers, meet the courageous members who lifted their voices in song, and assess the multiple dimensions of how that song sustained the movement. She argues that civil rights movement songs “became the catalyst that allowed activists to find and maintain” an “extraordinary level of determination, patience and fortitude.”

African-American Studies students have won the Drake undergraduate writing award in two of the last three years. In 2012-13, David Baker garnered the award for his paper, “Minority Rules: How Being Black Saved Joan Little’s Life and Unified Feminism.”