At #NCTE21, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from inspiring speakers who care about literacy as much as you do. The art of teaching and learning writing, reading, speaking, and listening is multifaceted, complex, and rich with possibility. That’s why each year we select general session speakers who bring a range of perspectives: 2021 is no exception. We’re thrilled to share this stellar lineup with you.
Opening General Session: Thursday, November 18
Michelle Robinson Obama served as First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. Mrs. Obama is the author of the memoir Becoming, a #1 New York Times bestseller that won an NAACP Image Award, was named one of Essence’s 50 Most Impactful Black Books of the Past 50 Years, and was selected as an Oprah’s Book Club pick. Becoming has been adapted into an edition for young readers and is the basis for Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice. She is also the author of American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America and recently contributed the introduction for Follow That Food!, a picture book tie-in with Waffles + Mochi, a Netflix children’s series from Higher Ground Productions, the production company she founded with her husband, former President Barack Obama.
General Session: Friday, November 19
George M. Johnson
George M. Johnson is the author of the upcoming memoir We Are Not Broken, to be published in September 2021. Johnson has written for major outlets, including Teen Vogue, Entertainment Tonight, NBC, The Root, Buzzfeed, Essence, Ebony, THEM, and The Grio. They have also served as Guest Editor for BET.com’s Pride month. They were awarded the 2019 Salute to Excellence Award by the National Association of Black Journalists for their article “When Racism Anchors Your Health” in Vice Magazine, and named to The Root 100 Most Influential African Americans in 2020. They are the author of the bestselling memoir All Boys Aren’t Blue.
General Session: Saturday, November 20
Colson Whitehead is the author of the forthcoming Harlem Shuffle. He is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of ten works of fiction and nonfiction, and a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, for The Nickel Boys and The Underground Railroad, which also won the National Book Award. His reviews, essays, and fiction have appeared in a number of publications, including the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper's, and Granta. A recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships and the 2020 Prize for American Fiction from the Library of Congress, he lives in New York City.
Closing General Session: Sunday, November 21
Amanda Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. She is a committed advocate for the environment, racial equality, and gender justice. Amanda’s activism and poetry have been featured on the Today Show, PBS Kids, and CBS This Morning, and in the New York Times, Vogue, and Essence. After graduating cum laude from Harvard University, she now lives in her hometown of Los Angeles. In 2017, Amanda Gorman was appointed the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate by Urban Word – a program that supports Youth Poets Laureate in more than 60 cities, regions and states nationally. Gorman’s performance of her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration received critical acclaim and international attention. The special edition of her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” was published in March 2021 and debuted at #1 on the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestsellers lists. Amanda appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in February 2021 and was the first poet to grace the cover of Vogue in their May 2021 issue. She was Porter Magazine's July 2021 cover star and received The Artist Impact Award at the 2021 Backstage at the Geffen Awards. Her debut picture book, Change Sings, will be published in September 2021, and her poetry collection, Call Us What We Carry, will release in December 2021. Please visit theamandagorman.com.
Alfredo Celedón Luján
Alfredo Celedón Luján is the president of NCTE as well as an English teacher at Monte del Sol Charter School in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where his students were featured in a segment of CPB/Annenberg’s The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature. He hails from Nambé, northern New Mexico. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in education from New Mexico State University and his Master of Arts/English and Master of Letters from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. He has been a writer-in-residence at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts at Martha’s Vineyard and also with the multicultural Artist in the Schools Program in Alaska. He has been a recipient of three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was named one of New Mexico’s Golden Apple Award winners for excellence in teaching in 2015.
Virtual Preconference General Session
Before Convention gets underway, attendees are invited to gather online on Wednesday, November 17, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. ET for a virtual Preconference General Session featuring Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renée Watson, and Nikkolas Smith, the coauthors and illustrator of the forthcoming The 1619 Project: Born on the Water. This live virtual event is included in the registration price for all Convention attendees.
Preconference General Session: Wednesday, November 17
Nikole Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter covering racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine and the creator of the landmark 1619 Project. Hannah-Jones is author of the forthcoming The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story and the coauthor of the picture book The 1619 Project: Born on the Water written with Renée Watson, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith. She also has written extensively about school resegregation across the country and chronicled the decades-long failure of the federal government to enforce the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act. In 2016, she co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, a training and mentorship organization dedicated to increasing the ranks of investigative reporters of color.
Renée Watson is a New York Times bestselling author. Her young adult novel, Piecing Me Together received a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award. Her books for young readers include Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award, and Ways to Make Sunshine, which received the SCBWI Golden Kite Award. She is the coauthor of the forthcoming picture book The 1619 Project: Born on the Water written with Nikole Hannah-Jones, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith.
Watson has given readings and lectures at locations including the United Nations, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Embassies in Japan and New Zealand.
Watson is on the Council of Writers for the National Writing Project and is a member of the Academy of American Poets’ Education Advisory Council. She grew up in Portland, Oregon, and splits her time between Portland and New York City. To learn more about her work, visit www.reneewatson.net.
Nikkolas Smith, a native of Houston, Texas, is an Artivist, picture book author, and Hollywood film illustrator. He is the author/illustrator of The Golden Girls of Rio, nominated for an NAACP Image Award, My Hair Is Poofy And That’s Okay, and World Cup Women. He is the illustrator of the forthcoming picture book, The 1619 Project: Born on the Water, cowritten by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson.
As a Black illustrator, Nikkolas is focused on creating captivating art that can spark important conversations around social justice in today’s world and inspire meaningful change. Many of his viral, globally shared and published sketches are included in his book Sunday Sketch: The Art of Nikkolas. He also speaks on his Artivism at conferences, workplaces, and schools around the world, and leads workshops in digital painting, character, and movie poster design. He lives in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at www.NIKKOLAS.art.
Keynote and Section Event Speakers
We look forward to sharing more details soon about the authors joining us at the 2021 Annual Convention as Keynote and Section Event speakers.