Get to know the AALCS! Introducing the Monthly Member Spotlight: First up, President Grégory Pierrot

The AALCS is very excited to feature our first member spotlight! Once a month we will feature a new member to emphasize the great work the AALCS is doing and build our community. First up, President Grégory Pierrot! Check out his responses below.

1) Tell us about yourself.

“I’m a 40 year-old, recently naturalized French immigrant of West Indian descent. I grew up in Metz, Lorraine, not too far from Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. I obtained my PhD in English at the Pennsylvania State University, specializing in African American literature and Haitian Revolutionary Studies. I have been teaching at the University of Connecticut at Stamford since 2013. I’m a middling drummer, an even worse guitarist, a mostly regrettable singer, and I’ll play soccer anywhere on the left wing.”

2) What is your favorite class to teach/that you have taught?

“I’m very fond of my “Music in African American Literature” course. If the reasons aren’t obvious, it is because I get to listen to and discuss music with students all semester long. The course mixes history, pop culture, politics, and allows students a variety of angles into the material. It’s always made for very entertaining and lively discussions. As for myself, music was very important to me when I was growing up, and a crucial entry into African American culture and literature. The long history of relations between African Americans and France also means that the French at large think they have a special relation with black American culture. It is not untrue, but it is also a source of interesting cognitive dissonance when you’re black and French. I have broached it in this course, when relevant. At the confluence of music and literature, we also are bound to discuss matters of national and racial belonging, matters of formal, linguistic and cultural translation, i.e. all the things I’m interested in as a scholar. So it is a treat, hopefully for the students too!”

3) What is your current research project?

“I just turned in my book manuscript, The Black Avenger in Atlantic Culture, which hopefully will get published some time next year at Georgia UP. I mentioned earlier that I also work in Haitian Studies: I am a co-editor on an Anthology of Haitian Revolutionary Fictions, a wonderful project led by Marlene Daut (UVA) for which I am also doing translations (I moonlight as a translator). I have been working in collaboration with Tabitha McIntosh (Birkbeck) on cultural exchanges between Henry I of Haiti’s kingdom (1811-1820) and the West. We have written and continue to write articles and are currently working on a digital humanities project about the kingdom of Haiti, the first installment of which we hope to release later this year. I’m staying mysterious about it—suspense!—but I can say that this first installment will center on Néhri, a play by Haitian author Juste Chanlatte long believed lost, a copy of which McIntosh recently located. These projects have been occupying much of my time, but I have many more at different stages of completion. I’ll spare you for now.”

4) What made you specialize in this area?

“I consider myself a Black Studies scholar, and clearly my personal background had some influence on it. As a teenager I played in bands, wrote for fanzines that my sister started and which focused not just on music but on broader cultural and political matters. There was always a connection between these interests and literature to me, but not necessarily one that I thought could I could work on as a student. As a French grad student my specialization was more broadly American literature and I had a somewhat narrow understanding of what was allowed at the university—single-author study, that type of thing. Reading Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic certainly made an impression on me as an example of a study that crossed disciplinary boundaries. The opening sentence in the first chapter— “Striving to be both European and black requires some specific forms of double consciousness”—struck me as a research program of sorts. The unspoken reference to DuBois also makes clear that this program necessarily includes African American thought and art. By the time I joined a grad program in the US it occurred to me that I could work on all those topics I’d been writing about and thinking about outside of academia. This may explain why some of my work falls under Romanticism, Haitian Studies, etc. What I’ve long been interested in is what it means to be black in the West; black literatures, cultures and history as they relate to each other. So I follow these interests where they take me, so to speak.”

5) What is your favorite food or meal?

“Aaaaaah what a tough question! There are too many to count, really, but to represent, I’ll say quiche Lorraine, my birth region’s gift to the culinary world, and accra, a cod fritter they make all over the Caribbean but which I know from my Martinican mother. I no longer eat meat but I still eat fish for now, so I suppose accra’s ahead of the traditional quiche with lardons, but the quiche is forgiving and versatile.”


Call for Papers: 30th American Literature Association Conference, Boston, May 23-26, 2019.


African American Literature and Culture Society

American Literature Association

30th Annual Conference

May 23-26, 2019

Westin Copley Place

10 Huntington Avenue

Boston, MA

The African American Literature and Culture Society invites abstracts (of no more than 250 words) for presentations at the annual conference of the American Literature Association ( We will also consider a limited number of panel proposals (of no more than 500 words).

The notion of ancestry is central to the formation of continuums in African American Literature and Culture. Whether in music, in novels, in polemical texts, or in poetry, the acknowledgment of the elders, of traditions, of memory can take on many forms. For instance, in the wake of the Black Arts Movement, poems eulogizing John Coltrane and Malcolm became a genre on their own. Those poems become occasions to address political struggles, vexed historical moments of the black experience, and deferred dream of equality and freedom. In intersecting ways, Sonia Sanchez and Natasha Tretheway both historicized in verse a mapping of black women experiences, from slavery to contemporary times. They address ancestry but reasserting the cultural significance of history and artistry as resistance.

In recent African American Young Adult Fiction (e.g. The Hate U Give, Ghost Boys, I Am Alphonso Jones), protagonists also evoke the ghosts of black martyrs (Emmett Till, henry Dumas) as a way to re-member and remember a fragmented past, one that can trace lineages, honor those whose suffering and brief life became symbolical of the treatment of African Americans throughout U.S. history. More than assessing notions of influence, those works interrogate the legacy of ancestry, the way contemporary writers revisit, recast, and reaffirm the lives, the experiences, and the sustained cultural meaning of previous generations. So, central questions arise: how do we reread and revisit the past? How do cultural legacies continue to shape our identity, our notion of history? What are the interlinkings between ancestry and canon formation? What figures of the past do we turn to in times of crisis?


Topics include, but are not limited to the following:

-Literary dialogues across the tradition: Black writers and the notion of Ancestry

-Black Lives Matter and Young Adult Fiction

-Didacticism, activism and artistry in Black Literary texts

-African American Literature and cultural memory

-Black writers and renegotiations of vernacular continuums

-The Legacy of Black Power in contemporary African American Texts

-Black Past, Bleak Futures: Ancestry in Afrofuturism

-Ntozake Shange: Life and Oeuvre

While we welcome papers on the above themes and subthemes, we also strongly encourage submissions on any topic related to African American literature and culture.

Please send abstracts or proposals to Belinda Waller-Peterson ( ) and Jean-Philippe Marcoux ( ) no later than January 4, 2019.  Presenters must be members of AALCS by the time of the conference.  Information about the Society can be found at the AALCS website: .

Register to AALCS here.







2018 AALCS Award Recipients

The African American Literature and Culture Society is proud to announce the recipients of the Stephen E. Henderson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry, and the Darwin T. Turner Award for Excellence in Scholarship in African American Culture and Literature for the year 2018.



giovanni singleton (image from Harriet: a poetry blog)

giovanni singleton, our Henderson Award recipient, is the author of Ascension (Counterpath 2012), winner of the California Book Award Gold Medal for poetry, and AMERICAN LETTERS: works on paper (Canarium Books, 2017). Her poetry appears in many anthologies and is inscribed on the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, CA. She has been a fellow at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Cave Canem, and the Napa Valley Writers Conference, as well as a recipient of the New Langton Bay Area Award. She is the coordinator for the Lunch Poems series at the University of California-Berkeley and founding editor of nocturnes (re)view of the literary arts. She has taught at Saint Mary’s College, Naropa University and New Mexico State University.




Michele Elam (photo by Linda Cicero)

Michele Elam, our Turner Award recipient, is William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies, Olivier Nomellini Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, Professor of English, and currently Director of the Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University. Elam is the author of Race, Work, and Desire in American Literature, 1860-1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2003), The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium (Stanford University Press, 2011), and is Editor of the Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin (Cambridge University Press, 2015). She has published articles in African American Review, American Literature, Theatre Journal and Genre, among others as well as op-eds for CNN, Huffington Post, and Boston Review.


Award recipients will be recognized and honored during the AALCS Reception and Reading held at the American Literature Association 29th Annual Conference (Hyatt Regency, San Francisco, CA) on Friday, May 25, 2018. The reception will feature giovanni singleton reading from her work.

Call for Papers: 29th American Literature Association Conference, San Francisco, May 24-27, 2018


African American Literature and Culture Society

American Literature Association

28th Annual Conference

May 24-27, 2018

Hyatt Regency San Francisco
5 Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA


The African American Literature and Culture Society invites abstracts (of no more than 250 words) for presentations at the annual conference of the American Literature Association ( We will also consider a limited number of panel proposals (of no more than 500 words).


In our current social and political moment, protest, activism, and their discontents present challenges of interpretation, historiography, and narrative.  2018 marks the anniversary of a number of critical moments in the history of black protest in America, including the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1968 student protest leading to the creation of the first black studies department at San Francisco State University. In response to these events, this year we will be focusing on themes of activism and protest in African American literature and culture, in and outside the academy. Topics include, but are not limited to the following:


-Writing Respectability Politics: The Nineteenth Century and Today

-Writing Protest before the Black Arts Movement: The Harlem Renaissance and the 1940s

-The Black Arts Movement & Its 21st Descendants

-Black Women’s Rhetoric and Representation of the Civil Rights movement

Literary and Cultural Memories of black Assassinations (such as Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Hutton, Fred Hampton)

– Reading Iconic Collective Action of the Civil Rights Movement in the Age of #blacklivesmatter (including the sit-in, the march, the riot, and more recently, kneeling)

-Diasporic Imaginations of Martin Luther King Jr.

-San Francisco’s “Mission District”: Interracial coalitions and Literature of Protest

Umbra and Umbra: Latin/Soul (a literary journal and poet support group published in NYC in the 1960s and California in the 1970s)

-Literary Collaboration, Cross-pollination, and Interactions between “Third World” Writers

-Activism in the Academy: Discourses of the Black Studies Program

While we welcome papers on the above themes and subthemes, we also strongly encourage submissions on any topic related to African American literature and culture.

Please send abstracts or proposals to Belinda Waller-Peterson ( ) and Jean-Philippe Marcoux ( ) no later than January 7, 2018.  Presenters must be members of AALCS by the time of the conference.  Register here.






African American Literature and Culture Society Awards Reception at the 28th Annual Conference of the American Literature Association

May 26, 2017 at the Westin Copley Place, Boston, MA

The AALCS recognized outstanding contributions to African American literature at the American Literature Association Conference in Boston. Cheryl Wall received the Octavia E. Butler Award; Henry Louis Gates, Jr., received the Darwin T. Turner Award and Jamaica Kincaid received the Stephen Henderson Award. 


The African American Literature and Culture Society hosted the Awards Reception at the 28th Annual Conference of the American Literature Association.  Kathryn T. Gines presented Cheryl Wall (Rutgers University) with the inaugural Octavia E. Butler Award for Outstanding Contributions to Scholarship on Black Women Writers.  Gene Jarrett presented Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Harvard University) with the Darwin T. Turner Award for Outstanding Contributions to African American Literary Scholarship and Aldon Nielsen presented Jamaica Kincaid (Harvard University) with the Stephen E. Henderson Award for Outstanding Contributions to Prose. Carolyn Denard of the Toni Morrison Society recognized Evelyn Schreiber for her contributions in furthering the study of Toni Morrison, and the Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins Society presented their award for an outstanding high school student essay.  The awards reception was presided over by AALCS president, Shirley Moody-Turner, and continued in the Society’s long tradition of recognizing the outstanding work and achievements of the preeminent scholars and creative artists in the field of African American literature.


Kathryn T. Gines (left) and Cheryl Wall. Photo by Aldon L. Nielsen.

Cheryl Wall is the Board of Governors Zora Neale Hurston Distinguished Professor English at Rutgers University.  Her scholarship on black women writers, including Changing Our Own Words: Criticism, Theory and Writing by Black Women; Women of the Harlem Renaissance; and Worrying the Line: Black Women Writers, Lineage, and Literary Tradition, centers within the black literary tradition, the aesthetic and thematic innovations and lineages of black women writers.  In addition to her years of scholarly contributions, her work as an institution-builder and mentor of women of color scholars, marked most prominently by her role in creating the African American and Diaspora Postdoctoral Fellowship at Rutgers University, has helped change the face of the field and support the careers and research of numerous black women scholars.


Gene Jarrett (back turned) and Henry Louis Gates Jr. Photo by Aldon L. Nielsen.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, and has authored or co-authored twenty-one books and created fifteen documentary films.  In his dozens of books, films, edited collections and anthologies, ranging from the Norton Anthology of African American Literature and the Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers to The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross and Finding Your Roots, Professor Gates has shaped the field of African American literary and cultural studies and brought critical attention to countless African American authors, artists and cultural workers, who, but for his tireless commitment and scholarly insight, might have remained neglected. His film and television projects have helped further expand the field of African American studies, educating and enlightening the wider public about the enumerable contributions and complex experiences of people of African descent. He is the recipient of fifty-five honorary degrees, was a member of the first class awarded “genius grants” by the MacArthur Foundation in 1981, and in 1998, was the first African American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal.


Jamaica Kincaid. Photo by Aldon L. Nielsen.

Jamaica Kincaid is the Professor of African and African American Literature in Residence at Harvard University.  She has made extraordinary contributions to African American and Caribbean literature, as demonstrated in both her fiction and non-fiction writings.  She is the author or editor of fifteen books, and was a long-time contributor and featured columnist for The New Yorker.  In Annie John, Lucy, See Now Then, A Small Place, and My Garden Book, just to name a few, she centers black lives and experiences, while treating such complex theme and legacies as colonialism, post-colonialism, racism, sexism and other systems of oppression and neglect. In her role as writer-critic-gardener she helped shape the contemporary literary landscape, introducing, and indeed, insisting upon, new and more nuanced interpretations of African American and Caribbean literature and life.  She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including a Guggenheim Award for Fiction, an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for The Autobiography of My Mother and a Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award for See Now Then.



The AALCS at the 28th American Literature Association Conference, Boston, May 25-28, 2017

African American Literature and Culture Society Panels – American Literature Association 2017

THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2017
9:00  to 10:20am

Session 1-A: Emotional Archives: Trauma, Memory and African American Literature
Chair: Belinda Waller-Peterson

  1. “The Afterlife and Legacy of Trauma in James Baldwin’s Fiction,” Benjamin Batzer, University of Iowa
  2. “‘Hurt You into Tenderness Finally’: Erotic Submission/Masochism and Black Female Subjectivity in Gayl Jones’s Corregidora,” Anna Ziering, University of Connecticut
  3. “‘Let Me Sing my Song’: Finding a Voice in Helene Johnson’s Pastoral Poetry,” Robert Fillman, Lehigh University

THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2017
1:30 to 2:50

Session 4-: Black Activism, Black Resistance
Chair:Aldon Nielsen

  1. “Black Arts Women Poets as Warriors AND Queens: Intersectional Identity on Public Television’s Black Journal in 1970,” Sarah Rudewalker, Spelman College
  2. “Embodied Spaces of Transformative Change in the ‘Homeless’ City: Affective Possibilities of Becoming Black in Daniel Black’s Listen to the Lambs,” Lâle Demirtürk, Bilkent University, Turkey
  3. “‘The Evil of the One Room Cabin’: Black Clubwomen Apprehending the Problem of Black Female Sexuality and Transforming it into Possibility in The Woman’s Era 1894-1897,” Erica Richardson, Columbia University
  4. “The Question of Community Building, Spectacle, and Progress,” Sarai Johnson, American University

FRIDAY MAY 26, 2017
9:40 to 11:00am

Session8-H: Politics of Care in African American Women’s Writing
Chair:Shirley Moody-Turner

  1. “Our Mothers’ Creole Gardens: Uprooting the Conjure Woman in the Work of Toni Morrison,“ Rachel Carr, University of Kentucky
  2. “Care Networks as the Locus of Social Change in Toni Cade Bambara’s Early Fiction,” Susan Edmunds, Syracuse University.
  3. “The Persistently Pedagogical and Ever Ecological Mama Day,” Asha Tall, Tufts University
  4. “Toni Cade Bambara’s Alternative Models of Disability,” Anna L. Hinton, Southern Methodist University

 FRIDAY MAY 26, 2017
3:40 to 5:00

Session 12-H: Trails of History: Colson Whitehead, Lauret Savoy and George Fortman
Chair: Loretta Woodard

  1. “‘The Long, Dark Trail’: Travel, Trauma, and Identity in the Narrative of George Fortman,” Rosetta R. Haynes, Indiana State University
  2. “ ‘No One Wanted to Hear It’: The Underground Railroad and the Perilous Preservation of Black Literary History,” Iain Bernhoft, Rhode Island School of Design
  3. “Reimagining History: The Question of Authenticity in Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad,” Sonia Weiner, Tel Aviv University
  4. “Memorializing the Land, Memorializing the Archive: Exploring the Unidentified and Unidentifiable in Lauret Savoy’s Trace,” Leah Barlow, University of Pennsylvania


 FRIDAY MAY 26, 2017
7:15 TO 9:00PM




11:10 to 12:30am



2:10 to 3:30


Session 18-G: Genre Crossings in African American Literature
Chair:Grégory Pierrot

  1. “David Walker, Black Pamphleteering, and the First African American Novel,” Eric Curry, Independent Scholar
  2. “‘Days of my childhood I woo you not back’: Dislocating Childhood in Frances E.W. Harper’s Iola Leroy,” Shannon Brennan, Carthage College
  3. “The Death Spaces—Homewood and Prison: John Edgar Wideman’s Brothers and Keepers, JuYoun Jang, University of Mississippi
SUNDAY, MAY 28, 2017
8:30 TO 9:50am
Session 21-A: African American Theory, Chinese Perspectives: A Roundtable
 Chair: Wilfred D. Samuels, University of Utah
1.Yunqiu Wang, Huangzhou Dianzi University, China
2.Kai Kang, Huangzhou Dianzi University, China
3.Yanlin Xu, Huangzhou Dianzi University, China
4.Huijuan Tan, Huangzhou Dianzi University, China


Full program of the 28th ALA Conference