African American Review

A publication of Johns Hopkins University Press

African American Review is a scholarly aggregation of insightful essays on African American literature, theatre, film, the visual arts, and culture; interviews; poetry; fiction; and book reviews. Published quarterly, AAR has featured renowned writers and cultural critics including Trudier Harris, Arnold Rampersad, Hortense Spillers, Amiri Baraka, Cyrus Cassells, Rita Dove, Charles Johnson, Cheryl Wall, and Toni Morrison. The official publication of LLC African American of the Modern Language Association, AAR fosters a vigorous conversation among writers and scholars in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

AAR Annual Awards

The 2019 Darwin T. Turner Winners - best essay overall

Winner: Christopher S. Lewis (Ohio University), "Neuter-Bound/Neuter-Freed: Queer Gender and Resistance to Slavery" (Vol 52.4)
Mention of Honor: Sarah Sillin (Central Washington University), "Seduction's Offspring: Resisting Sentimental Violence from Wilson to Wells" (Vol 52.3)

The 2019 Joe Weixlmann Winners - best essay among this year's selection in twentieth- and twenty-first-century African American literature and culture

Winner: Raquel Kennon (California State University, Northridge), "Subtle Resistance: On Sugar and the Mammy Figure in Kara Walker's A Subtlety and Sherley Anne Williams's Dessa Rose" (Vol 52.2)
Mention of Honor: Zachary Manditch-Prottas (Washington University in St. Louis), "Meeting at the Watchtower: Eldridge Cleaver, James Baldwin's No Name in the Street, and Racializing Homophobic Vernacular" (Vol 52.2)

Call for Papers

CFP for Special Issue about African American Biofiction

Biofiction is literature that names its protagonist after an actual historical figure, and it has become a dominant aesthetic form since the late 1980s, resulting in stellar works from global luminaries as varied as Gabriel García Márquez, J. M. Coetzee, Margaret Atwood, Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates, Mario Vargas Llosa, Peter Carey, Olga Tokarczuk, and Hilary Mantel, just to mention a notable few. Studies about biofiction have surged over the last ten years, but what scholars have not yet noted is the African American contribution to the evolution, rise, and legitimization of biofiction.

There were some important biofictions published in the nineteenth century, such as Herman Melville's Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile (1855), Gustave Flaubert's The Temptation of St. Anthony (1874) and “Herodias” (1877), Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-85), and Oscar Wilde's “The Portrait of Mr. W.H.” (1889). But the first real boom occurred in the 1930s, with influential publications from authors like Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann, Irving Stone, and Robert Graves. Worth noting is that Arna Bontemps (Black Thunder) and Zora Neale Hurston (Moses, Man of the Mountain) published two of the more impressive biofictions from the decade.

But it would be two novels about African Americans in the second half of the twentieth century that would contribute significantly to the most important boom in biofiction, which is still underway. In 1967, William Styron published the hugely controversial novel The Confessions of Nat Turner, which won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, while in 1979, Barbara Chase-Riboud published Sally Hemings, a work that sold more than a million copies and led, in part, Eugene A. Foster to carry out DNA testing, which confirmed that Hemings's descendants are related to Jefferson.

African Americans, either as authors or protagonists, are of crucial importance in some of the most impactful biofictions, including Chase-Riboud's The President's Daughter (Jefferson's daughter Harriet Hemings) and Hottentot Venus (Sarah Baartman), Charles Johnson's Dreamer (Martin Luther King, Jr.), Louis Edwards's Oscar Wilde Discovers America, Caryl Phillips's Dancing in the Dark (Bert Williams), Chika Unigwe's De Zwarte Messias (Olaudah Equiano), and Colum McCann's TransAtlantic (Frederick Douglass), just to name a few. It is for this reason that the African American Review is soliciting essays for a special issue about African American biofiction, by which is meant either biofiction by or about African Americans.

We welcome essays about the history of the aesthetic form in relation to African American literature and culture, African American innovations within the form, the role of African Americans within biofiction, studies about individual texts, and the recovery of lost historical figures through biofiction. More speculative essays are also welcome. For instance, we know that Toni Morrison encouraged Chase-Riboud to write Sally Hemings. Given the huge success of that 1979 novel, why did Morrison change the name of her protagonist in Beloved? How would Beloved signify differently had Morrison written it as a biographical novel? How would Sally Hemings function and signify differently had Chase-Riboud changed the protagonist's name? Such contrastive and comparative studies could illuminate individual novels as well as African American biofiction more generally.

Essays will be due on 15 August 2021. All submissions should adhere to AAR's guidelines, which can be found at

For information about this special issue, contact Michael Lackey (

Job Openings

Swarthmore College Black Studies

Open Date: 18 September 2019

The Black Studies Program at Swarthmore College invites applications for an open rank, tenure-track position specializing in African American and/or African-diasporic musics and their cultures. In addition to applicants with advanced interdisciplinary training in Africana, African American, or Black Studies, we welcome applications from musicologists, ethnomusicologists, historians, and others whose work evinces humanistic approaches to the theories, histories, cultures, and aesthetics of jazz, as well as other black vernacular musics. Because this appointment is in Black Studies, the committee seeks candidates with the demonstrated ability to teach our introductory and capstone courses, along with a broad range of other Black Studies courses reflecting their research interests; we also seek candidates who will contribute to the leadership and future direction of the Program. This appointment will begin on 15 August 2020, with a 2/2 teaching load, a generous leave policy, and a salary commensurate with qualifications.

Now celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, the Black Studies Program at Swarthmore College is a vibrant interdisciplinary unit that maintains strong working relationships with departments and programs across the College, as well as the Black Cultural Center, the Intercultural Center, and the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of our program, we draw our majors and minors from students whose interests vary by methodology and approach. While there is no requirement to do so, nearly all students take at least one Black Studies course during their time at Swarthmore, demonstrating our significant reach throughout the curriculum and the wider campus community. Located just outside of Philadelphia, Swarthmore College is a highly selective, residential liberal arts college, and the Black Studies program benefits from students who are focused, creative, and socially engaged.

The successful candidate will have a PhD in hand by 1 July 2020, a broad range of research and teaching interests anchored in Black Studies, and enthusiasm for cross-departmental collaboration. The strongest candidates will be expected to demonstrate a commitment to creative teaching and an active research program that speaks to and motivates undergraduates from diverse backgrounds.

To apply, please submit a cover letter detailing your research agenda, teaching interests, and other qualifications for the position, along with a current CV and three letters of recommendation. Applications received by 4 November 2019 will receive our fullest consideration. Please address any inquiries to Dr. Anthony S. Foy (

For further information about Swarthmore College, please see

Apply at:


The Marlon Riggs Bibliography

the A-line

A-line Journal

An online journal of progressive thought, the A-Line casts a broad net across the cultural and political landscape by assuming a progressive stance that seeks to examine national and international issues from this perspective. The journal will provide a venue for the exploration of the link between our work as citizen-intellectuals, made more urgent now, and the spectrum of matters, from climate change, a nearly unprecedented refugee crisis, xenophobic global populism, to mass incarceration and the other depredations of neoliberal public policy that shape our living in the early twenty-first century.

The Harriet Wilson Project

The purpose of The Harriet Wilson Project is to raise awareness of Harriet Wilson and her literary work, to educate the public on her contribution to American history and her contribution to American literature, and to publicly honor her for her accomplishments. It is the intent of The Harriet Wilson Project to promote, preserve, and seek recognition of Harriet Wilson's book Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black for its historical significance, and to provide a fitting memorial in her honor. Incorporated as a non-profit organization in April 2003, The Harriet Wilson Project was formed by a group of civic-minded citizens of different ethnicities who came together to raise awareness, celebrate, and honor the life and accomplishments of Harriet Wilson, a pre-Civil War black author from Milford, New Hampshire.

The Claude McKay Collection

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University is home to the Claude McKay Collection. McKay (1890-1948), one of the major figures of the Harlem Renaissance, wrote several collections of poetry, novels, short stories, autobiographical and other nonfiction books. Born in Jamaica, he lived in the United States, primarily in New York, from 1913-1919, and then spent most of the next fifteen years in England, Russia, France, Spain and Morocco before returning to New York in 1934. The collection has been reprocessed and consists of letters, manuscripts, personal papers, subject files, photographs and memorabilia. There is correspondence from many well-known writers and figures in the African American community from the first half of the twentieth century, including Langston Hughes, Countée Cullen, James Weldon Johnson, Carl Van Vechten, Harold Jackman, and Arna Bontemps. There are drafts of published and unpublished poetry collections, novels, autobiographical writings, and short story and essay compilations, including The Selected Poems of Claude McKay (1953), Harlem: Negro Metropolis (1940), "Romance in Marseille," an unpublished novel written in Spain in 1930, and My Green Hills of Jamaica (1979), McKay's autobiography of his youth. McKay contributed to many liberal and socialist journals, including Sylvia Pankhurst's Workers' Dreadnought and Max Eastman's The Liberator, and there are various pieces of nonfiction, most in draft form, as well as a few polemical newspaper articles dating from the early and late 1930s in which McKay responds to critics of his literary work and views on labor. The collection now includes previously unprocessed photographs and memorabilia. The two largest groups of photographs are those taken in Russia and North Africa, while McKay lived abroad, and studio portraits of well-known musicians and figures in the African American community. McKay was well received in Soviet Russia in the early 1920s, and there are photographs of Lenin, Trotsky and other high-ranking party officials, of McKay with members of the Russian Naval Academy and other groups, and of McKay addressing the Fourth Congress of the Communist International in the Throne Room at the Kremlin in Moscow. The memorabilia consists of clippings, photographs, program materials, and souvenirs from various events between 1979-1990 that honor McKay's life and work. The collection's finding aid may be found at

In Memoriam