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 & Other Announcements

Journal of Hip Hop Studies Seeks Associate Editors

The Journal of Hip Hop Studies (JHHS) invites you to consider serving as an associate editor. Founded in 2012, JHHS plays an integral role in Hip Hop studies, inside and outside of the academy. Moving forward, our aim is to lead the charge in academic innovation and challenging the academy’s role in propagating white supremacy. As a peer-reviewed, open-access journal hosted on Scholars Compass and published by Virginia Commonwealth University, JHHS provides a rigorous space for Hip Hop writing, thinking, and creativity. You are invited to make a vital contribution to this work.

As an associate editor, you will be a part of the decision-making team, contribute to the vision of the journal, and be involved in shaping the content of the issues we produce.

Main Responsibilities:

JHHS is working on securing grants to aid in travel and compensation, but at present, the position is monetarily uncompensated.

Potential specialty areas for associate editors:

Please respond to the editor-in-chief with a statement of interest: Travis Harris ( Feel free to circulate this posting among your networks. JHHS can be found at:

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 (


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.

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