Faculty Books

The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers Cover

The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers is the most comprehensive anthology of its kind: an extraordinary range of voices offering the expressions of African American women in print before, during, and after the Civil War. Edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this collection comprises work from fifty-two writers arranged into sections of memoir, poetry, and essays on feminism, education, and the legacy of African American women writers. Many of these pieces engage with social movements like abolition, women’s suffrage, temperance, and civil rights, but the thematic center is the intellect and personal ambition of African American women. The diverse selection includes well-known writers like Sojourner Truth, Hannah Crafts, and Harriet Jacobs, as well as lesser-known writers like Ella Sheppard, who offers a firsthand account of life in the world-famous Fisk Jubilee Singers. Taken together, these incredible works insist that the writing of African American women writers be read, remembered, and addressed.


Chester B. Himes cover

The definitive biography of the groundbreaking African American author who had an extraordinary legacy on black writers globally.

In his Chester B. Himes (1909–1984), Lawrence P. Jackson depicts the improbable life of the controversial writer whose novels confront sexuality, racism, and social injustice. In absorbing detail, Jackson explores Chester Himes’s middle-class origins, eight years in prison, painful odyssey as a black World War II–era artist, and escape to Europe, where Himes became internationally famous for his Harlem detective series. Praised by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., as “one of the towering figures of the black literary tradition,” Himes, author of the bestsellers If He Hollers, Let Him Go and Cotton Comes to Harlem, published twenty literary works over a long career, enhanced by friendships with Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, and Carl Van Vechtern.

Chester B. Himes relies on exclusive interviews and unrestricted access to Himes’s full archives. Jackson restores the legacy of a fascinating maverick determined to etch disturbing portraits of American urban life that remain vivid and contemporary.


Black Prometheus book cover

How did an ancient mythological figure who stole fire from the gods become a face of the modern, lending his name to trailblazing spaceships and radical publishing outfits alike? How did Prometheus come to represent a notion of civilizational progress through revolution–scientific, political, and spiritual–and thereby to center nothing less than a myth of modernity itself ? The answer Black Prometheus gives is that certain features of the myth–its geographical associations, iconography of bodily suffering, and function as a limit case in a long tradition of absolutist political theology–made it ripe for revival and reinvention in a historical moment in which freedom itself was racialized, in what was the Age both of Atlantic revolution and Atlantic slavery. Contained in the various incarnations of the modern Prometheus–whether in Mary Shelley’s esoteric novel, Frankenstein, Denmark Vesey’s real-world recruitment of slave rebels, or popular travelogues representing Muslim jihadists against the Russian empire in the Caucasus– is a profound debate about the means and ends of liberation in our globalized world. Tracing the titan’s rehabilitation and unprecedented exaltation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries across a range of genres and geographies turns out to provide a way to rethink the relationship between race, religion, and modernity and to interrogate the Eurocentric and secularist assumptions of our deepest intellectual traditions of critique.


The Hustle book cover

Over the past several years scholars, activists, and analysts have begun to examine the growing divide between the wealthy and the rest of us, suggesting that the divide can be traced to the neoliberal turn. “I’m not a business man; I’m a business, man.” Perhaps no better statement gets at the heart of this turn. Increasingly we’re being forced to think of ourselves in entrepreneurial terms, forced to take more and more responsibility for developing our “human capital.” Furthermore a range of institutions from churches to schools to entire cities have been remade, restructured to in order to perform like businesses. Finally, even political concepts like freedom, and democracy have been significantly altered. As a result we face higher levels of inequality than any other time over the last century.

In Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics, Lester K. Spence writes the first book length effort to chart the effects of this transformation on African American communities, in an attempt to revitalize the black political imagination. Rather than asking black men and women to “hustle harder” Spence criticizes the act of hustling itself as a tactic used to demobilize and disempower the communities most in need of empowerment.


Mapping Region is a collection of essays that study how early American writers assessed the spaces around them. The contributors reconsider the various roles regions played in the formation of American communities, both real and imagined. Hollis Robbins and Janet Neary’s “African American Literature of the Gold Rush” looks at accounts of the California Gold Rush in the black press as well as letters from black immigrants to California and Western narratives centered on African American experiences. The authors offer a reassessment of the American West in the landscape of nineteenth-century African American studies, moving away from the primarily southern notion of African Americans as property toward the more active role of African American seeking property rights in the West. Focusing on the writings of James Williams and William H. Newby, this essay considers Gold Rush California as representing new possibilities for black citizens as well as an important testing ground for African American rights.


South African Literature's Russian Soul book cover

How do great moments in literary traditions arise from times of intense social and political upheaval? South African Literature’s Russian Soul charts the interplay of narrative innovation and political isolation in two of the world’s most renowned non-European literatures. In this book, Jeanne-Marie Jackson demonstrates how Russian writing’s “Golden Age” in the troubled nineteenth-century has served as a model for South African writers both during and after apartheid. Exploring these two isolated literary cultures alongside each other, the book challenges the limits of “global” methodologies in contemporary literary studies and outdated models of center-periphery relations to argue for a more locally involved scale of literary enquiry with more truly global horizons.Bloomsbury Academic


From David Brion Davis’s The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution to Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic, some of the most influential conceptualizations of the Atlantic World have taken the movements of individuals and transnational organizations working to advocate the abolition of slavery as their material basis. This unique, interdisciplinary collection of essays provides diverse new approaches to examining the abolitionist Atlantic. With contributions from an international roster of historians, literary scholars, and specialists in the history of art, this book provides case studies in the connections between abolitionism and material spatial practice in literature, theory, history and memory.

This volume covers a wide range of topics and themes, including the circum-Atlantic itineraries of abolitionist artists and activists; precise locations such as Paris and Chatham, Ontario where abolitionists congregated to speculate over the future of, and hatch emigration plans to, sites in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean; and the reimagining of abolitionist places in twentieth and twenty-first century literature and public art.

This book was originally published as a special issue of Atlantic Studies.


We have all been swept up by the momentum of the Occupy movement. We have seen the results of years of organizing in different communities come together in ways that few could have imagined, bolstered by the scores of people who have left the comfort of their daily routine behind and taken to the streets. Yet as a movement so overflowing with new social and political actors, we lack the framework we need to help us all to understand what a social movement is, to understand how change has happened in the past, to understand what this moment means and what this movement makes possible.

We Are Many is a reflection on Occupy from within the heart of the movement itself. Examining key questions: What worked? What didn’t? Why? How? Is it reproducible? The authors and activists in this collection point toward a movement-based framework for future organizing. Heavily illustrated and annotated, We Are Many is a celebration of what worked, and a thoughtful analysis of what didn’t.


Armed with only early boyhood memories, Lawrence P. Jackson begins his quest by setting out from his home in Baltimore for Pittsylvania County, Virginia, to try to find his late grandfather’s old home by the railroad tracks in Blairs. My Father’s Name tells the tale of the ensuing journey, at once a detective story and a moving historical memoir, uncovering the mixture of anguish and fulfillment that accompanies a venture into the ancestral past, specifically one tied to the history of slavery.

After asking around in Pittsylvania County and carefully putting the pieces together, Jackson finds himself in the house of distant relations. In the pages that follow, he becomes increasingly absorbed by the search for his ancestors and increasingly aware of how few generations an African American needs to map back in order to arrive at slavery, “a door of no return.” Ultimately, Jackson’s dogged research in libraries, census records, and courthouse registries enables him to trace his family to his grandfather’s grandfather, a man who was born or sold into slavery but who, when Federal troops abandoned the South in 1877, was able to buy forty acres of land. In this intimate study of a black Virginia family and neighborhood, Jackson vividly reconstructs moments in the lives of his father’s grandfather, Edward Jackson, and great-grandfather, Granville Hundley, and gives life to revealing narratives of Pittsylvania County, recalling both the horror of slavery and the later struggles of postbellum freedom.

My Father’s Name is a family story full of twists and turns—and one of haunting familiarity to many Americans, who may question whether the promises of emancipation have ever truly been fulfilled. It is also a resolute look at the duties that come with reclaiming and honoring Americans who survived slavery and a thoughtful meditation on its painful and enduring history.


Rap’s critique of police brutality in the 1980s. The Hip Hop Political Convention. The rise (and fall) of Kwame Kilpatrick, the “hip-hop mayor” of Detroit. Barack Obama echoing the body language of Jay-Z on the campaign trail.

A growing number of black activists and artists claim that rap and hip-hop are the basis of an influential new urban social movement. Simultaneously, black citizens evince concern with the effect that rap and hip-hop culture exerts on African American communities. According to a recent Pew survey conducted on the opinions of Black Americans, 71 percent of blacks think that rap is a bad influence. To what extent are African American hopes and fears about hip-hop’s potential political power justified? In Stare in the Darkness, Lester K. Spence answers this question using a blend of neoliberal analysis, survey data, experiments, and case studies.

Spence finds that rap does in fact influence black political attitudes. However, rap also reproduces rather than critiques neoliberal ideology. Furthermore, black activists seeking to create an innovative model of hip-hop politics are hamstrung by their reliance on outmoded forms of organizing. By considering the possibilities inherent in the most prolific and prominent activities of hip-hop politics, Stare in the Darkness reveals, in a clear and practical manner, the political consequences of rap culture for black publics.