For the last month or so, a group of us (Tisha Brooks, Elizabeth Cali, Lora Smallman, and Jeremiah Carter) have been having regular conversations about developments and shifts in the field of African American literary studies. For an upcoming project, we have to clarify why we are interested in the last 30 years or so of African American literature and literary studies. Thus, I've been jotting down notes for a timeline, which I share here.
1986: Arnold Rampersad publishes The Life of Langston Hughes: Volume I: 1902-1941: I, Too, Sing America.
1986: William L. Andrews publishes To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865.
1987: The Library of America published W.E.B. Du Bois: Writings. Nathan Huggins serves as the volume editor.
1987: August Wilson is awarded a Tony Award for Best Play for Fences.
1987: Bernard W. Bell publishes The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition.
1987: Hazel Carby publishes Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist.
1987: Rita Dove awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Thomas and Beulah.
1987: Barbara Christian's "The Race for Theory" published in Cultural Critique.
1987: James Baldwin dies, many prominent African American artists and scholars attend funeral.
1988: 48 black writers and critics publish a letter in The New York Times highlighting the idea that novelist Toni Morrison had not received adequate recognition for her artistic works.
1988: Keneth Kinnamon publishes A Richard Wright Bibliography: Fifty Years of Criticism and Commentary, 1933-1982.
1988: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. publishes The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism.
1988: Arnold Rampersad publishes The Life of Langston Hughes: Volume II: 1941-1967: I Dream a World.
1988: The Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers, which includes 30 volumes, with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as series editor, is published.
1988: Barbara Christian's "The Race for Theory" reprinted in Feminist Studies.
1988: Toni Morrison wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Beloved.
1989: Changing Our Own Words: Essays on Criticism, Theory, and Writing by Black Women edited by Cheryl Wall published.
1990: Charles Johnson is awarded the National Book Award for Fiction for Middle Passage.
1991: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. assumes chair of African American Studies Program at Harvard University.
1991: Transition magazine is relaunched, with Wole Soyinka as chair of the editorial board, Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as editors, and Henry Finder as managing/executive editor.
1991: The Library of America published Richard Wright: Early Works and Richard Wright: Later Works. Arnold Rampersad serves as volume editor.
1992: Derek Walcott wins the Nobel Prize for Literature.
1992: Houston A. Baker serves as president of the Modern Language Association.
1993: Maya Angelou reads poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at inauguration of Bill Clinton.
1993: Toni Morrison wins the Nobel Prize for literature.
1993: Paul Gilroy publishes The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness.
1993: Rita Dove appointed Poet Laureate of U.S.
1994: The Library of America publishes Frederick Douglass: Autobiographies. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. serves as volume editor.
1994: Cornel West joins faculty at Harvard, becomes key member of Gates's "dream team."
1994: The Furious Flower Poetry conference, organized by Joanne Gabbin, takes place September 29 - October 1.
1994: Yusef Komunyakaa wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
1994: Tricia Rose publishes Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America.
1995: Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought edited by Beverly Guy-Sheftall is published.
1995: Richard Wright - Black Boy, a documentary produced by Madison Davis Lacy, Jr., premiered on PBS on September 1.
1995: Farah Jasmine Griffin publishes "Who Set You Flowin'?" The African-American Migration Narrative.
1995: The Library of America publishes Zora Neale Hurston: Novels and Stories and Zora Neale Hurston: Folklore, Memoirs, and Other Writings. Cheryl A. Wall serves as the volume editor.
1996: Cave Canem, retreat for African American poets, is founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady.
1996: The Norton Anthology of African American Literature eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay is published.
1996: Oprah Winfrey starts “Oprah’s Book Club.”
1997: The Oxford Companion to African American Literature edited by William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, Trudier Harris is published.
1998: The Library of America publishes James Baldwin: Early Novels and Stories and James Baldwin: Collected Essays. Toni Morrison serves as volume editor.
1999: Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience edited by Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr. published.
2000: The Library of America publishes Slave Narratives. William L. Andrews and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. serve as volume editors.
2002: "Let America Be American Again: An International Symposium on the Art, Life & Legacy of Langston Hughes," organized by Maryemma Graham, takes place February 7 - 10, at the University of Kansas.
2002: Suzan-Lori Parks wins Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Topdog/Underdog.
2002: The Bondwoman's Narrative, a novel composed between 1853 and 1861, by Hannah Crafts (Bond). The manuscript had been purchased by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in 2001.
2004: Second Furious Flower Poetry conference, organized by Joanne Gabbin, takes place September 22 - 25.
2004:: Edward Jones awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for The Known World (2003).
2004: The Library of America publishes James Weldon Johnson: Writings. William L. Andrews serves as volume editor.
2006: Cheryl Wall publishes Worrying the Line: Black Women Writers, Lineage, and Literary Tradition.
2006: Keneth Kinnamon's publishes Richard Wright: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism and Commentary, 1983-2003.
2007: Arnold Rampersad publishes Ralph Ellison: A Biography.
2007: Natasha Trethewey wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her volume Native Guard (2006).
2009: Elizabeth Alexander reads "Praise Song for the Day" at inauguration of Barack Obama.
2009: NEH Summer Institute for School Teachers “Making the Wright Connection: Teaching Black Boy, Native Son, and Uncle Tom’s Children,” directed by Maryemma Graham, takes place at the University of Kansas, July 11 - 24.
2011: Jesmyn Ward awarded the National Book Award for Fiction for Salvage the Bones.
2011: Kenneth Warren publishes What Was African American Literature?.
2012: Roundtable, "Assessing What Was African American Literature?; or, The State of the Field in the New Millennium," at the Modern Language Association convened.
2012: Natasha Trethewey appointed as the U.S. Poet Laureate.
2012: NEH Summer Institute for College Teachers "Contemporary African American Literature,” directed by Lovalerie King, takes place at Pennsylvania State University, July 8-28.
2012: Tracy K. Smith wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Life on Mars.
2013: NEH Summer Institute for College Teachers "Don’t Deny My Voice: Reading and Teaching African American Poetry," directed by Maryemma Graham, takes place at the University of Kansas, July 14 - August 3.
2014: Amiri Baraka dies January 9.
2014: Maya Angelou dies May 28.
2014: Third Furious Flower Poetry conference, organized by Joanne Gabbin, takes place September 24 - 27.
• African American Literary Studies
• Black Intellectual Histories
• 95 Dates of Importance in African American Novel History - by Kenton Rambsy