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.
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.
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 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.