Winston-Salem native Jelani Favors receives high praise for his book ‘Shelter in a Time of Storm’

Jelani Favors, author of Shelter in a Time of Storm: How Black Colleges Fostered Generations of Leadership and Activism

Winston-Salem native Jelani Favors receives high praise for his book ‘Shelter in a Time of Storm’
September 29
10:34 2020

For his first published book, “Shelter in a Time of Storm: How Black Colleges Fostered Generations of Leadership and Activism,” Jelani Favors, a native of Winston-Salem, is receiving some high praise. Favors, who is a graduate of Glenn High School, is the 2020 recipient of the Lillian Smith Book Award, and the Stone Book Award. 

“Shelter in a Time of Storm,” which was published in 2019, examines the role historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) played in cultivating student activists, including several who would go on to lead the civil rights and Black Power movements. 

When discussing his inspiration for the book, Favors, who is a history professor at Clayton University, said his parents, who are both history buffs and graduates of North Carolina A&T, always instilled in him the importance of being connected to his historical roots. So naturally when it came time for him to decide what college he would attend and his major, he chose to attend an HBCU (North Carolina Central before transferring to North Carolina A&T) and decided to major in history. 

“It’s just something that has always interested me and it’s something I always excelled at, so when I got to school at A&T, I decided to continue in the family tradition and major in history,” Favors said. 

Favors also credits Forsyth County Commissioner Fleming El-Amin for sparking his interest in African American history. As a sophomore at Glenn, Favors decided to take an African American history course that was taught by El-Amin, who was a teacher at the school at the time. Favors said the class was phenomenal and prepared him for college level learning. He said El-Amin introduced him to authors like J.A. Rogers and countless other Black authors and scholars. 

“I look back on it today and it’s really fascinating,” Favors continued. “For one, just how Mr. El-Amin pulled that off because this is the early 1990s and the idea of teaching African American history at a school located in Kernersville, North Carolina, wasn’t very popular but he pushed for it and made it happen. Mr. El Amin really approached that class as a college teacher. The material that he was assigning to us was the type of material you would assign college students.

“I tell him all the time how he was a major mentor and figure in my life and that class was a major catalyst and springboard for me.”

Favors began laying the foundation for “Shelter in a Time of Storm” while in graduate school at Ohio State University (OSU). “My graduate advisor encouraged me to take a second look at the role of Black education in the lives of African Americans. To take a second look at Black institutions and the role that they have played in helping to shape that movement, and so I did,” he said. After speaking with his advisor, Favors decided to write his master’s thesis on the sit-ins at N.C. A&T and the environment that helped produce it. From there, he took a course called The History of Black Education at OSU. He said the course helped expand his thesis into what would become the book.

“That course really opened up my eyes to not only the legacy that Black education and Black institutions have played, but also the holes that still needed to be filled in terms of the research and the scholarship,” Favors continued. “That class, The History of Black Education, taught by Dr. Beverly Gordon, really served as a springboard for ultimately my dissertation … and from there my dissertation advisor, Dr. Hassan Jefferies, was the one who really encouraged me to tell a broader story of Black colleges and write a book that finally filled in that hole in terms of the roles Black colleges played in producing activism in Black America.” 

Favors’ printed work, which was published in 2019, chronicles the development and significance of five different HBCUs: Cheyney State University, Tougaloo College, Bennett College, Alabama State University, Jackson State University, Southern University, and North Carolina A&T. This past May, “Shelter in a Time of Storm” was the recipient of the Lillian Smith Book Award. This award has been given out since 1966 and has honored past authors such as Alice Walker, Alex Haley, and the Honorable John Lewis to name a few. 

And earlier this month it was announced that “Shelter in a Time of Storm” is this year’s recipient of the Stone Book Award presented annually by the Museum of African American History in Boston. An awards ceremony for the MAAH’s Stone Book Award will be held on Oct. 15. Favors said he is happy that the book has done so well in such a short period of time. He said just being mentioned with most well known authors of all time is humbling. 

“To follow in the footsteps of people like Alice Walker, Alex Haley, John Lewis, Pauli Murray, these are titans in the field. Following in their footsteps is not only comforting and humbling, but it kind of confirms that this long journey that I took to get this book out and to produce it, that it all really paid off,” Favors said. 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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