Fort Greene’s black novelists celebrate the nabe of the ’90s

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Fort Greene’s famous black writers want you to remember the neighborhood of the 1980s and ‘90s, when Spike Lee, Branford Marsalis and other creative minds made it a mecca for young artists.

On Feb. 15, join Nelson George for a night of storytelling at Greenlight Bookstore, where a crew of leading authors will host a panel discussion on the local truths that inspired their fiction — before gentrification took the neighborhood over.

Martha Southgate, John Lee and Carl Hancock Rux will also lead the soiree in honor of Black History Month.

“This will be very much a celebration of the area’s rich literary history, and we’ll explore why the area has always attracted writers,” said George, author of “The Plot Against Hip Hop” and the documentary “Brooklyn Boheme.”

George moved to the nabe in 1985 and ever since, it’s played a hefty role in his fiction.

“Like most of New York City, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill have changed every decade,” he said. “As a kid I ventured to Downtown Brooklyn but never came over here because the area had such a bad reputation.

“Now when I talk to older Fort Greene residents, they think of the black artists who I moved here with as the first gentrifiers.”

Fort Greene has long been home to literary geniuses, even before the more recent arrival of Jennifer Egan and Colson Whitehead. A century earlier, Walt Whitman penned editorials calling for the creation of Fort Greene Park, John Steinbeck snagged his first apartment here, and Richard Wright composed “Native Son” in the historic greenspace.

“We think it’s important that while this literary explosion is terrific for the future of Fort Greene and Brooklyn as a whole,” said Emily Russo, a planner at Greenlight Bookstore. “We shouldn’t forget where it all began.”

“Fort Greene’s Black Writers: A Neighborhood History” at Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Portland Street and S. Elliott Place in Fort Greene, (718) 246-0200]. Free, 7:30 pm. For info, visit

Reach Kate Briquelet at or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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