Participating Scholars

IMG_7314Wallace D. Best (Ph.D., Northwestern University) specializes in 19th and 20th century African American religious history.  He is Chair of the Department of Religion at Princeton University and the Acting Chair of the Center for African American Studies. His research and teaching focus on the areas of African American religion, religion and literature, Pentecostalism, and Womanist theology. He has held fellowships at Princeton’s Center for the Study of Religion and the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University.  His publications include: Passionately Human, No Less Divine: Religion and Culture in Black Chicago, 1915-1952 (Princeton University Press, 2005) and, in process, “Langston’s Salvation: American Religion and the Bard of Harlem.”  He has produced two documentary films: This Far By Faith (2000) and Soldiers Without Swords: The Black Press (1996-97).

IMG_7289John F. Callahan (Ph.D., University of Illinois) is the Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities and Professor of English at Lewis & Clark College, where he has taught continuously since 1967. He is widely recognized for his work in American and African American literatures, especially for his work on the late novelist, short story writer, and essayist Ralph Ellison.  As literary executor for the Ellison estate, Callahan has overseen the publication of six collections of letters, short fiction, and essays.  Bravely, he, with coeditor Adam Bradley, brought out Ellison’s second novel, the unfinished Three Days Before the Shooting (2010).  Prior to this editorial labor, he brought out a section of it under the title Juneteenth (1999).

Christopher C. De Santis (Ph.D., University of Kansas) is Professor of African-American Literature and Chair of the Department of English at Illinois State University.  His research interests include: 19th and 20th century American and African-American Literature; the Reconstruction Era and its Legacies; Racial Ideologies and National Identity; The Harlem Renaissance; Langston Hughes; and Southern Literature.  His Fight for Freedom and Other Writings on Civil Rights, volume ten in the Collected Works of Langston Hughes series, nicely brings together Hughes’s prose writings on Civil Rights.  Similarly, his edition Langston Hughes and the Chicago Defender: Essays on Race, Politics, and Culture, 1942-62 performs an invaluable service to the profession by collecting heretofore neglected nonfiction prose by Hughes.

Maryemma Graham (Ph. D., Cornell University) serves the University of Kansas as University Distinguished Professor. In 1983, she founded the Project on the History of Black Writing, which has been in the forefront of inclusion efforts in higher education for 32 years. It is the only archive of its kind dedicated to literary recovery, professional development, public outreach, and digital access. Graham is the author or editor of ten books, including The Cambridge History of African American Literature (with Jerry W. Ward, Jr.), the first comprehensive African American literary history to be published in the twenty-first century. She is perhaps best known for her public outreach in the humanities, where she has facilitated inter-institutional networks of peers nationally and globally, and coordinated large-scale public programs that extend the reach of academic scholarship.   She has been a John Hope Franklin Fellow at the National Humanities Center, an ACLS fellow, a Hall Center fellow, a Ford and Mellon fellow. She has also been the recipient of more than fifteen grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

IMG_7317Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper (Ph.D., Emory University) the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of English at Spelman College, was educated at Hampton University, Oberlin College (B.A.), and Emory University (M.A. and Ph.D.). A founding member and past president of the Langston Hughes Society, she authored Not So Simple: The “Simple” Stories by Langston Hughes (1995) and edited four collections of short fiction by Hughes. She has published numerous articles and book reviews and has given lectures and conference presentations throughout the U.S. and in special presentations in Wuhan, China (2007) and Ankara and Istanbul,Turkey (2010). She is a life member and the current Vice President of the College Language Association (CLA) and a past member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Departments of English (ADE) of the Modern Language Association (MLA). Passionately committed to increasing the ranks of the professoriate, she coordinates the UNCF-Mellon Undergraduate Fellowship Program at Spelman and directs the UNCF-Mellon Summer Institute at Emory University during the month of June. (Yes, she is missing in action right now!)

IMG_7323Vera Kutzinski (Ph.D., Yale University) joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2004 as the first Martha Rivers Ingram Professor of English, a Professor of Comparative Literature, and the Director of the former Center for the Americas. Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, Kutzinski was Professor of English, African American Studies, and American Studies at Yale University, joining their faculty in 1986. Kutzinski holds a Yale Ph.D. and M.A. in American Studies, as well as a Yale M.A. in African American Studies. She has extensive experience in academic administration at the department and the university levels. Her research and teaching interests encompass US American, Caribbean, and Latin American literary and cultural history as well as translation and translation studies. She has directed or co-directed more than 30 dissertations, the majority of them in English and Comparative Literatures. Besides numerous articles and book chapters, Kutzinski has published four books on Comparative American and Caribbean literatures: the award-winning Against the American Grain: Myth and History in William Carlos Williams, Jay Wright and Nicolás Guillén (John Hopkins, 1987), Sugar’s Secrets: Race and the Erotics of Cuban Nationalism (Virginia, 1993), the translation Nicolás Guillén’s The Daily Daily (California, 1989), and The Worlds of Langston Hughes: Modernism and Translation in the Americas (Cornell, 2012).

Robert G. O’Meally (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, and founder and former director of the Center for Jazz Studies. His major interests are American literature, music, and painting. He has written extensively on Ralph Ellison, including The Craft of Ralph Ellison (Harvard, 1980), and a collection of papers for which he served as editor, New Essays on Invisible Man (Cambridge, 1989). O’Meally has written a biography of Billie Holiday titled Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday (Little, Brown, 1989) and a documentary film on Holiday (which has been shown on public TV). He is also the author of The Jazz Singers (Smithsonian, 1997) and principal writer of the monograph, Seeing Jazz (Smithsonian, 1997). He edited Tales of the Congaree (University of North Carolina, 1990), and The Jazz Cadence of American Culture (Columbia, 1998); and co-edited History and Memory in African American Culture (Oxford, 1994), the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, and Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies (Columbia, 2003). His production of the recording The Jazz Singers was nominated for a Grammy Award. His Holiday book and his liner notes for Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington collections won Ralph Gleason Awards. O’Meally’s new book is Romare Bearden: Black Odyssey–A Search for Home, a catalogue for a show opening this fall at D.C. Moore Gallery on Fifth Avenue in New York. His new project is a full study of Bearden’s uses of literary subjects.

IMG_7321Arnold Rampersad (Ph.D., Harvard University) was a member of the Stanford University English department from 1974 to 1983, before resigning to accept a position at Rutgers University. Since then he has taught at Columbia and Princeton before returning to Stanford in 1998. One of the nation’s premiere biographers, he has published Ralph Ellison: A Biography (2007); The Art and Imagination of W.E.B. Du Bois (1976); The Life of Langston Hughes (2 vols., 1986, 1988); Days of Grace: A Memoir (1993), co-authored with Arthur Ashe; and Jackie Robinson: A Biography (1997). In addition, he has edited several volumes including Collected Poems of Langston Hughes; the Library of America edition (2 vols.) of works by Richard Wright, with revised individual editions of Native Son and Black Boy; and (as co-editor with Deborah McDowell) Slavery and the Literary Imagination. He was also co-editor with Shelley Fisher Fishkin of the Race and American Culture book series published by Oxford University Press.  His most recent work is Selected Letters of Langston Hughes (2015), with David Roessel. From 1991 to 1996, he held a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He is a 2010 recipient of the National Humanities Medal.

Steven C. Tracy (Ph.D., University of Cincinnati) is Professor of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst. Tracy, who has written, edited, co-edited, or provided introductions for 30 books, is author of Langston Hughes and the Blues (U of Illinois Press 1988), Going to Cincinnati: A History of the Blues in the Queen City (U of Illinois P, 1993), and A Brush with the Blues (1997). He also served as general co-editor of The Collected Works of Langston Hughes (U of Missouri P, 2001-2004) and editor of Write Me a Few of Your Lines: A Blues Reader (UMass P, 1999), Langston Hughes: Works for Children and Young Adults (U of Missouri P, 2001), A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes (Oxford UP, 2004), A Historical Guide to Ralph Ellison (Oxford UP, 2004), After Winter: The Life and Work of Sterling A. Brown (with John Edgar Tidwell Oxford UP, 2009), and Chicago Bound: Black Writers of the Chicago Renaissance (University of Illinois Press, 2012). His most recent work is Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature (University of Alabama Press, 2015).