Julie Sullivan-Detheridge, Ph.D. addresses Steamboat Era Museum visitors at exhibit of her great-grandfather, Captain Hansford C. Bayton. Photo credit: Mike Brecher



Hansford C. Bayton was born in Essex County, VA, in 1863, just 10 months after slavery officially ended – on paper – with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Of course, decades of being beaten and sold as property were not erased with the markings of President Abraham Lincoln’s pen. Two years later, the Reconstruction period strained to set upright the cart of racial justice by officially granting freedmen equal rights under the Constitution. But 27 years later, Jim Crow Laws toppled over that wheel barrel inflicting the soil of racial segregation on public facilities from water fountains to libraries.


Yet Bayton, who was Black and Native American, managed to rise above the illusion of separate but equal entities and the very real threat of Ku Klux Klan lynchings to secure personal loans from wealthy white businessmen. Bayton used these investments to commission construction of five steamboats that he used for excursions and delivery of United States Postal Service mail, along the Rappahannock River in Virginia.

Photo of the Dr. W.J. Newbill steamboat owned by Captain Hansford C. Bayton. Photo credit: Mike Brecher


Captain Bayton’s great-granddaughter, Julie Sullivan-Detheridge, Ph.D. researched his life and wrote the biography, Against the Tide: The Turbulent Times of a Black Entrepreneur. Julie, who writes under the name J.H. Sullivan, will discuss this book as the keynote speaker at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference (PWC) banquet 7 p.m., Saturday, June 10, in the Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District Hotel, at 400 Arch Street.


As monumental as it was, a Black man owning five steamboats in the south during the 1800s wasn’t Captain Bayton greatest accomplishment. It was more remarkable that he maintained his steamboat business for 28 years even after the serial burnings of all of his boats, under mysterious circumstances. Determined not to fail, he had each boat rebuilt and still became a very wealthy man. The home he once owned now sells for more than $1 million.


History Celebrated

The incredible accounts in Against the Tide inspired the Steamboat Era Museum in Irvington, VA to design an exhibit about Captain Bayton’s life. When the tribute opened last month, Julie was invited to speak to visitors and read from her book about his life.


“The exhibit featured a timeline of my great-grandfather’s life and photographs of his family and boats,” Julie said. “People attending the exhibit were predominately local residents from the northern neck region, but people traveled to Irvington from throughout Virginia. During the reception on Saturday evening I spoke directly to about ten children in the audience about the importance of applying perseverance and courage in not being daunted in attaining your goals.”

The Steamboat Era Museum opens an exhibit of Captain Hansford C. Bayton’s life. Photo credit Mike Brecher


Legendary Family 

Captain Bayton is just one of Julie’s relatives who fought against getting run over by the train of racial injustice. She comes from a family of resilient people. During her presentation at the PWC banquet, Julie will also speak about her father, the late Reverend Dr. Leon H. Sullivan, who made history overcoming racial barriers as a civil rights warrior and pastor of Zion Baptist Church of Philadelphia. Rev. Sullivan helped end apartheid in South Africa with the Sullivan Principles that called for improved human rights, social justice, and economic fairness. He created the free, international job training program Opportunities Industrialization Center, and founded the economic development ventures, Zion Gardens, the first $1 million apartment complex owned by African Americans and Progress Plaza, the country’s oldest African American-owned shopping center. Rev. Sullivan’s years of service earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian award from the American government, the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights, and more than 50 honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities.


“My speech will predominately focus on my book, Against the Tide and the legacy of my maternal great-grandfather, Captain Bayton, who defied difficult circumstances during the Jim Crow era to succeed despite tremendous odds,” Julie said. “But I will also speak about the life of my late father, Reverend Leon Sullivan, and about those lessons my brother, sister and I learned about not giving up, about faith, and about the importance of economic self-empowerment.”


Accomplished Educator

When Julie isn’t writing, researching, and speaking about her family history, this native Philadelphian is an educator. Julie is a professor at Arizona State University, College of Health and Nursing Innovation. She teaches Culture and Health, Communication within Communities, and Clinical Health Care Ethics courses. She also is a Second Grade Sunday School Teacher at her church in Arizona. She received a Bachelor’s degree in English from Arcadia University, a Master’s degree in Journalism from Temple University, and a Ph.D. in International Development with a concentration in Public Health from Tulane University.


Julie had the background to fill the role of president and CEO of the International Foundation for Education & Self-Help (IFESH), which her father founded in 1983. In that position, she was responsible for placing more than 1,100 American volunteer-educators (85 percent of whom held a master’s degree or higher with an average of 12 years of teaching experience) to train teachers and school administrators in health and education, focusing on vulnerable populations, in more than a dozen sub-Saharan African countries. These educators impacted, in turn, more than 2 million children on the continent.





Because You Want to Study Creative Writing and the Publishing Industry, Rosemont College Developed a 60-Credit Double Degree Awarding You an MA in Publishing While You Earn an MFA in Creative Writing. Ask Us about it at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference Happy Hour 6 p.m., Saturday, June 10, in the Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District Hotel, at 400 Arch Street. This Networking Event is Sponsored by the Rosemont College MFA Program. Learn More Here:



2017 Opening Speaker, Yolanda Wisher, Interview

by Uriah Young on May 31, 2017

Yolanda Wisher shares aspects of her journey toward becoming Philadelphia’s third Poet Laureate. We are thrilled to have her as this year’s opening speaker! Enjoy.



Rosemont College MFA Program Sponsors Happy Hour

by Marsha Gilbert on May 28, 2017

The 69th Annual Philadelphia Writers’ Conference

June 9-11, 2017

offers instructional workshops and inspirational speakers.

And don’t miss the chance to network with writers, agents, and editors

during our Happy Hour 6-7 p.m., Saturday, June 10 in the

Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District Hotel, at 400 Arch Street.

This meet-and-greet-opportunity is sponsored by the

Rosemont College MFA Program



Larry Atkins discusses how his book, Skewed, came to fruition. Feel free to chime in and ask Larry questions in the comment section on Youtube!



Skype Session with Donna Galanti

by Uriah Young on May 17, 2017

YA fiction writer, Donna Galanti, Skypes about her experience as an author and what it was like attending the PWC.




The Secret Life of Writers

by Jim Knipp on April 1, 2017

We haven’t really done a conference “theme” for a few years now, but I still like to look through the classes each year and see any patterns or trends that might appear.  This year, perhaps because of the weird political climate, it seems we are thinking a lot about secrets….and truth.

We have Harriet Millan showing how to use fiction to capture the truth in your writing. Sheree Bykofsky, reveals the six secrets of successful authors. Doreen McGettigan exposes the truth about writing memoir.  Therese Halscheid ask the question is it better for you to reveal the truth or conceal your secrets?  And Thom Nickels explores the magical mystery in how newspapers can feed your non-fiction work.

Even the workshops that don’t directly deal in secrets or truth, get into the act.  We have a heavy emphasis on the thriller genre this year (Jon McGoran, Austin Camacho, and Master Class Leader Robert Blake Whitehill), and what better way to kick off a killer thriller than to reveal (or obscure)  secrets?  Poet Peter Murphy helps you break through the secrets of the abstract, and Chrys Tobey teaches you to reveal truths about society in your poetry.  Opening speaker Yolanda Wisher will deliver you into the rhythmic secrets of blues poetry in her master class, and Keynote Speaker J.H. Sullivan will reveal the harsh truths overcome by her great-grandfather in post-reconstruction Virginia.

And perhaps this emphasis on secrets and truth is fitting, for aren’t we as writers eternally balanced between the two?  Many non-writers watch us as we lock ourselves in our rooms or sit silently in the dark corners of the coffee shop and must think we live secret lives.  Fiction writers share secret worlds that have sprung up inside them.  Journalists scour the shadows to illuminate the truths, and memoirists reveal the secrets that led people to choose the paths they followed.  In a way, we as writers have always been the true keepers of secrets, the true revealers of truths. And perhaps in this crazy world, it is us, the scribes of the seen and unseen, who are the ultimate owners of both.

I’d like to think so.  And I’d like to invite you to this years’ Philadelphia Writers’ Conference.  Join us, on Friday, June 9th and share in our secrets, discover new truths, and take your place as the owner of both.

Hope to see you in June!




by Jim Knipp on February 8, 2017

Friday, June 9, 2017 through Sunday, June 11, 2017

The 2017 Conference is just four  three two-and-a-half short months away and board members are working diligently on the finishing touches.

Registration open on April 1st!



Authors discuss literary influence tonight

by Marsha Gilbert on October 28, 2016

robin-author-pic-3 Author Robin Black


Author Curtis Smith Author Curtis Smith


Come hear award-winning fiction authors, Robin Black and Curtis Smith, talk about literary influence tonight October 28, at Arcardia University in the Rose Room of Grey Towers Castle. This event, presented by The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, starts at 7 p.m. with light refreshments. The discussion is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Feel free to join in the question and answer session at the end of the talk. Read more information here. https://www.facebook.com/events/614894598696777/?ti=icl




Rizzo: strikingly relevant

by Marsha Gilbert on October 15, 2016

Rizzo Actors Scott Greer and Steven Wright star in the play Rizzo


There is a play running about a tall, aggressive politician who promised that if he was elected he’d make society great. No, the play isn’t about the current presidential election, but this production recaptures the racial, financial, and status battles from 1950 to 1991, along with the temperament of the controversial beat cop, who became Police Commissioner, and then Philadelphia Mayor, Frank Rizzo.

“Given the uncanny similarities between Rizzo and our current political environment, this play’s story continues to be strikingly relevant, especially given the immediacy and proximity of the upcoming election,” said executive producing director Sara Garonzik.

Performances of the play, Rizzo, are extended for an additional week through October 23, by the Philadelphia Theatre Company in the Suzanne Roberts Theatre at Broad & Lombard Streets.

The play is based on the bestselling book Rizzo: Last Big Man in Big City America by Sal Paolantonio; directed by Joe Canuso, the Founding Artistic Director of Theatre Exile; and written by Philadelphia-based playwright, Bruce Graham (who led a playwriting workshop for the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference last June).

For information call 215-985-0420 or visit http://philadelphiatheatrecompany.org/shows/rizzo/