Citizen: An American Lyric

by Claudia Rankine

Free copies of Citizen: An American Lyric and other Big Read materials will be made available during the


  • To Be Determined (TBD)

June 12, 2019—MINERAL POINT—Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts is a recipient of a grant of $15,000 to host the NEA Big Read in Mineral Point. An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Shake Rag Alley is one of 78 nonprofit organizations to receive an NEA Big Read grant to host a community reading program between September 2019 and June 2020. The NEA Big Read in Mineral Point will focus on “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine in activities that will take place in April and May 2020. 


“Shake Rag Alley is honored to be awarded an NEA Big Read grant and looks forward to reading Claudia Rankine’s ‘Citizen’ with our community,” said Executive Director Sara Lomasz Flesch. “Together with our partners at the Mineral Point Public Library and Mineral Point School District libraries, we chose ‘Citizen’ from among more than 30 books for its use of poetry and art to explore the impact words have on concepts of identity and inclusion. Next April’s National Poetry Month is a perfect time to showcase the importance and accessibility of poetry as a way to communicate with each other.”


“It is inspiring to see both large and small communities across the nation come together around a book,” said National Endowment for the Arts Acting Chairman Mary Anne Carter. “We always look forward to the unique ways cities, towns, and organizations explore these stories and encourage community participation in a wide variety of events.” 


The NEA Big Read showcases a diverse range of titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, aiming to inspire conversation and discovery. The main feature of the initiative is a grants program, managed by Arts Midwest, which annually supports dynamic community reading programs, each designed around a single National Endowment for the Arts Big Read selection.


During the month of April and continuing into May 2020, the NEA Big Read: Mineral Point program celebrating “Citizen” will feature a kickoff event and keynote session, numerous book discussions at regional libraries, a film series, school programs, art making, art conversations, and a poetry slam with open mic. Additional partners include the Multicultural Outreach Program and Mineral Point Opera House. The NEA Big Read grant will contribute to the costs of providing 1,000 free copies of “Citizen” and welcoming Rankine to Mineral Point for the keynote session.


Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,400 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $20 million to organizations nationwide. In addition, Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past twelve years, grantees have leveraged more than $50 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 5.7 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, approximately 91,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and 39,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible. For more information about the NEA Big Read, please visit


Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts, a nonprofit school of arts and crafts founded in 2004 by local artists and community members, is a national destination for participants of adult workshops, a robust summer youth programs and a host of annual special events on its 2.5-acre campus at 18 Shake Rag St. in Mineral Point. In addition, Shake Rag offers on-site lodging and custom facility rentals for meetings, events and celebrations. For more information, see or call (608) 987-3292.


Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more.

Arts Midwest promotes creativity, nurtures cultural leadership, and engages people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, please visit

Materials Produced in Conjunction with RACE – the power of Illusion

Claudia Rankine Reading from Citizen | The Loft Literary Center | Minneapolis. [14:42]

The Making of Citizen | Woodberry Poetry Room | Harvard University

Claudia Rankine Citizen | 92nd Street Y | New York City

How Art Teaches a Poet to See | International Festival of Arts & Ideas, 2015

Claudia Rankine: On Whiteness – ArtsEmerson in Boston, on March 24, 2017

The White Card – A Play by Claudia Rankine


Would you pass a US Citizenship test? Play Immigration Nation – test your knowledge of pathways to citizenship [Gameplay available in English & Spanish] The Long Ancient Road to Modern Citizenship – Ideas & Laws of Citizenship Centuries of Citizenship – A Constitutional Timeline Immigration Timeline – Library of Congress Creating Citizens – Smithsonian National Museum of American History History of Legal & Illegal Immigration to the United States – History of Migration, Citizenship, and Belonging – Reimagine Belonging National Immigration Law Center History of Voting – Scholastic (note: Wisconsin’s 1848 “most liberal voting laws” did not include Black male persons.)

We are sorry to postpone this event due to coronavirus concerns. Please check back for updates here and on our Facebook page.

In preparation for our NEA Big Read of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, Shake Rag Alley is hosting a series of virtual community conversations relevant to ideas explored within the book. These 1.5 hour Zoom meetings will give us a chance to explore issues Claudia Rankine addresses before taking a deep dive into the text this fall.

  • Watch for updates on scheduled events.
  • Read the book.
  • Use the resources on this page and suggest others.
  • Discuss the book with others you meet wearing buttons that signify they are also reading Citizen: An American Lyric.
  • Participate in any of the book discussions (TBD).
  • View relevant films in April at the Mineral Point Opera House (TBD).
  • Engage with ideas raised in the text at guest speaker talks (TBD).
  • Create art reflective of artists featured in the book during Women’s Art Parties (TBD) at Shake Rag Alley.

TBD – participating libraries include:

Platteville Public Library
225 W. Main St., Platteville, WI

Gays Mills Public Library
16381 Hwy. 131, Gays Mills, WI

Driftless Poets Workshop
Shake Rag Alley Lind Pavilion
411 Commerce St., Mineral Point, WI

Dodgeville Public Library
130 Iowa St., Dodgeville, WI

Mineral Point Public Library
137 High St., Mineral Point, WI





Professor Michael Thornton
UW-Madison Department of Afro-American & Asian-American Studies

7 PM – Shake Rag Alley Lind Pavilion, 411 Commerce St., Mineral Point

Dr. Thornton will speak on how racial concepts impact policing nationwide and in Wisconsin. He will offer insight and data on current practices as well as an overview of policing theories such as: the broken windows theory; community policing; stop and frisk; and the school to prison pipeline. A question and answer period will follow the lecture.

Recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, 2018

“Michael Thornton continuously showcases the newest scholarship on current social issues while his own work on multi-ethnic identity has been in the vanguard of ethnic studies/inter-group scholarship. He has continuously received outstanding evaluations from his students, even among those who found his courses exceptionally demanding. His students repeatedly commented on how he challenged them to rethink their assumptions, how his courses changed their lives, and how knowledgeable he is. They also noted that despite the often-contentious subject matter, he created both a safe environment and an intellectually rigorous classroom climate where diverse ideas and perspectives could be openly and honestly debated. This is a remarkable skill, perhaps never more so than in our current fractious political climate. ”

MAY 31

Philip Hartigan

5:30-7:30 PM

Shake Rag Alley Lind Pavilion, 411 Comerce St., Mineral Point

African-American writer James Baldwin emigrated to Paris in 1948 and lived there for most of the following ten years. During his time in Paris, he completed two of his greatest works of fiction (Go Tell it On the Mountain and Giovanni’s Room) and published numerous essays describing the experience of being a black American writer in France. This illustrated talk discusses the influence of Paris and its artistic community on James Baldwin, including the ways in which Baldwin’s time in France led him to reconnect with the United States and the growing Civil Rights movement. 
Philip Hartigan is a faculty member of the Columbia College Chicago Study Abroad program in Paris, where every January he teaches a class called Creative Writing: American Writers in Paris (Hemingway and Baldwin).

6:30-8:30 PM
Shake Rag Alley Lind Pavilion
411 Commerce St., Mineral Point, WI

Using women’s magazines from the 1930s through the 1970s, we will generate work reflective of collagist Wangechi Mutu, featured in Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, our April NEA Big Read-Mineral Pointbook. If you’d like to integrate your work into magnets and wearable buttons, supplies will be on hand. Materials fee: $5

6:30-8:30 PM
Shake Rag Alley Lind Pavilion
411 Commerce St., Mineral Point, WI

Integrate art and text in homage to work by South African artist William Kentridge, whose work amplifies the the themes of our April NEA Big Read-Mineral Point text, Citizen: An American Lyric. Carole Spelić will guide us in creating silhouettes on pages torn from encyclopedias and may, if we are lucky, share her personal knowledge of Kentridge.


Mineral Point Public Library
137 High St., Mineral Point Wisconsin

Claudia Rankine has authored five poetry collections including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue, numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. For her book Citizen, Rankine won both the PEN Open Book Award and the PEN Literary Award, the NAACP Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. (Citizen was the first book ever to be named a finalist in both the poetry and criticism categories); and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. She lives in California and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry.

In 2016, Claudia Rankine was named a MacArthur Fellow. Using the funding associated with this prize she launched The Racial Imaginary Institute an interdisciplinary cultural laboratory exploring the invented concept of race “that nevertheless operates with extraordinary force in our daily lives, limiting our movements and imaginations.”

discussion resources specific to wisconsin

Racial Dot Map

  • Does the representation of racial groups on this map match your lived experience?
  • Where would you need to go to find the nearest concentration of persons from another race?
  • Is the pattern of segregation in Wisconsin replicated nationally?
  • How did this concentration by race occur? Was it always this way?

Racial Integration Ranking

  • Where does Wisconsin rank?
  • Is this what you expected based on your lived experience?
  • How does Wisconsin compare to other US places you may have lived?
  • Do these findings suggest a Wisconsin imaginary?
  • What impact does this have on our communities and who are the citizens of those communities?

Black Suffrage in Early Wisconsin

African American History in Wisconsin

Black Citizenship in the United States

The History of White People

Thank you to these partners for supporting the Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts NEA Big Read grant proposal and working to bring this opportunity to our beloved community.