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

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 (


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: 5 March 2021

The Department of Music and Dance at Swarthmore College invites applications for a two-year Visiting Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology beginning in Fall 2021. Review of applications will begin on 22 March 2021 and continue until the position is filled. We seek applicants who specialize in the music of Black communities (specific area of specialization and region of the world are open). We are particularly interested in candidates whose work is grounded in music scholarship and its intersections with critical race theory.

Course load for the position is four courses each year including an introductory ethnomusicology course and additional courses in the candidate’s areas of expertise. Course topics of particular interest include but are not limited to jazz, music of Africa, Black music and power/protest, music of the Caribbean and/or South America, and Black musics of Philadelphia. The successful candidate will be eligible to apply for generous research and faculty development funding available through the College. The position will begin in August 2021.

Swarthmore's music program is a vibrant community of performers, creators and critical thinkers who share a passion for music both past and present, pop and classical, near and far. Our academic courses invite students to think deeply about music; our ensembles – including Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Chorus, Garnet Singers, Balinese Gamelan, Jazz Ensemble, Taiko, and Chinese Music Ensemble – bring talented students together to perform challenging and varied repertoire; our master class and residency programs bring some of our country’s most distinguished musicians to campus for ongoing collaborations with our students; and our program of private instruction enables students to study with some of the finest teachers from Philadelphia to New York City. Our core faculty includes two music historians, a music theorist, a composer, two ethnomusicologists, and a conductor/pianist. Students in our program are often active in many other fields, such as art history, biology, engineering, English, linguistics, and mathematics. We welcome all students, whether or not they pursue a major or minor in our discipline, to become part of our music family.

The successful candidate will hold a Ph.D. completed by the appointment starting date of August 2021 and will have a demonstrated commitment to creative teaching that speaks to and motivates undergraduates from diverse backgrounds. They will have a broad range of teaching and research interests and be responsible for teaching both introductory and advanced level courses in a small classroom setting.

To apply, please submit a cover letter of no more than two pages that describes your research, teaching philosophy, and the titles of four courses you are prepared to teach at the undergraduate level; a current CV; one or two sample syllabi for courses in your area(s) of specialization; and names and contact information (email and phone) for three academic/professional references. At least one of the references should be prepared to speak to your teaching experience.

Please address any questions you may have to Molly Lawrence Floyd, Administrative Coordinator, Music Program.

Apply at:

Raritan Valley Community College English Department

Open Date: 23 March 2021

Seeking qualified candidate for Tenure-Track English Instructor to teach credit composition and developmental English courses as assigned, and literature electives as available.

Responsibilities include: Develop and/or use a syllabus based on the official course outline for each course within college and departmental guidelines; Teach courses at a variety of times and locations in response to institutional needs; Make continuous efforts to improve the quality of instruction by reviewing and utilizing innovative methodologies, techniques, and delivery methods; Demonstrate or be willing to acquire skills for teaching on-line courses; Evaluate students to measure their progress in achieving course objectives, and inform them in a timely manner of their progress. Review, evaluate, and recommend student learning materials; Provide access to students through posted office hours, electronic communication and other appropriate methods; Maintain professional relationships with students, colleagues, and the community; Work collaboratively in a diverse learning institution; demonstrate commitment to teaching and working with a multicultural and multigenerational student body; Submit required college reports and forms; Demonstrate professional development within discipline; Participate in college/departmental professional development activities and serve on college-wide committees as assigned; and Adhere to College policies and procedures.

Requirements: Master's degree in English, Rhetoric/Composition, developmental English, or closely related field; Ability to teach developmental composition courses that integrate reading and writing; and Demonstrate professional development related to discipline.

Preferred Qualifications: Two years teaching experience; PhD in English or Rhetoric/Composition preferred; Training in composition theory/pedagogy; Training in reading pedagogy and application in a college composition classroom; Experience teaching college-level composition; Experience teaching developmental composition; and Experience using technology in the delivery of course content.

Application Instructions: As a New Jersey First Act Employer, new employees must establish a primary residence in New Jersey within one year unless an exemption applies.

Please submit a cover letter, current resume/vita and unofficial transcripts online:

Initial salary and rank will be based on the successful candidate's educational qualifications and professional experience. The College also offers an attractive employee benefits package. We regret that we are unable to respond to each and every resume received. Only those candidates of interest will be contacted directly.

Raritan Valley Community College is an Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Plan Employer. We will implement the policy to assure that the employment opportunities offered at the institution are available to all persons.

In Memoriam

Gerald Barrax

Camille Billops

Stanley Crouch

Randall Kenan

Toni Morrison

Maurice Berger

Kamau Brathwaite

Ernest Gaines

John Lewis

Leith Mullings

Cheryl Wall

Lauren Berlant

James Coleman

James Hatch

Paule Marshall

Gloria Richardson