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

2020 Darwin T. Turner Award - best essay overall

Winner: Sunny Yang (University of Houston), "Expanding the Southscape to the Global South: Remapping History and Afro-Vietnamese Intimacy in Yusef Komunyakaa's Dien Cai Dau" (Vol 53.2)

2020 Joe Weixlmann Prize - best essay among this year's selection in twentieth- and twenty-first-century African American literature and culture

Winner: Courtney Thorsson (University of Oregon), "'They could be killing kids forever!': The Atlanta Child Murders in African American Literature" (Vol 53.4)
Mention of Honor: Allison Serraes (Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies, Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz), "'Envisioning the future, remembering the past': A Neo-Abolitionist Reading of Suzan-Lori Parks's Fucking A" (Vol 53.1)

Call for Papers

TAPA - Special Issue on Race, Racism, and the Classics

Patrice Rankine and Sasha-Mae Eccleston will serve as guest editors of a future issue of TAPA with the theme of race, racism, and Classics (issue 153:1, to appear April 2023). COVID-19 and the global Movement 4 Black Lives have highlighted the extent to which racism is a public health emergency whose reach extends across the Black Atlantic and far beyond. In light of these deeply imbricated developments of 2020, this volume becomes even more timely. For a detailed call for papers, along with instructions and deadlines for submission in 2021, please visit

AAR - Special Issue on 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 (


American Literature Society's 1921 Prize in American Literature

The American Literature Society is pleased to invite submissions for the 1921 prize, which is awarded annually for the best article in any field of American literature. The prize is named for the year the organization was initially founded "to promote and diversify the study of American Literature." Judged by a panel comprised of members of the American Literature Society Advisory Board and other scholars in the field, the competition will be divided in two categories: one for tenured faculty and one for graduate students, scholars in contingent positions, and untenured faculty members. The winner will be announced at the 2022 MLA awards ceremony.

Rules for competition:

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Alisha Gaines, American Literature Society Chair,

Zafar Edits African American Review Special Issue

Rafia Zafar, professor of English, African and African American studies and American culture studies at Washington University in St. Louis, has coedited a special issue of African American Review dedicated to pioneering writer, historian and activist Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (1874-1938). Read more here.

Howard University Receives Transformative Gift from Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

A former pupil of Howard alumna Toni Morrison, Scott's gift marks the largest gift from a single donor in school history. Read more here.

Job Openings

Swarthmore College Music & Dance Department

Open Date: 25 October 2021

The Department of Music and Dance at Swarthmore College invites applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Music beginning August 2022. We seek candidates who specialize in African American, African and/or African-diasporic musical cultures in subfields such as (but not limited to) ethnomusicology, historical musicology, music theory, music education, composition, or music technology/production. We are particularly interested in candidates whose work is grounded in music scholarship and its intersections with critical race studies, Black studies and/or Africana studies.

Applicants must hold a Ph.D. at the time of appointment. The successful candidate will demonstrate effective and dynamic classroom teaching; a broad range of research and teaching interests; a commitment to engaging in cross-departmental collaboration; and a record of scholarly excellence. Commitment to community engagement is welcome, as is evidence of administrative abilities. Performance expertise is not required, but would be of interest.

Qualified applicants should apply via Interfolio: Please provide a letter of application, curriculum vitae, a sample of scholarly work, a sample syllabus, and the names and contact information of three references (please do not submit letters of recommendations at this time; the committee will contact references directly) by 1 December 2021. The cover letter should address the candidate’s interests in teaching in a liberal arts college environment, how they would approach mentoring students from diverse backgrounds, and how the candidate sees their teaching interests complementing and expanding current course offerings in the Music program and across the College. Please address any questions you may have to Molly Floyd (, Administrative Coordinator of the Music program.

In Memoriam

Gerald Barrax

Camille Billops

James Coleman

James Hatch

John Lewis

Leith Mullings

Julius Scott

Melvin Van Peebles

Maurice Berger

Kamau Brathwaite

Stanley Crouch

bell hooks

Paule Marshall

Sidney Poitier

Greg Tate

Lauren Berlant

Ed Bullins

Ernest Gaines

Randall Kenan

Charles Mills

Gloria Richardson

Desmond Tutu

Cheryl Wall