African American Music and Literature

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
contact email: 

In a memorable scene from Questlove’s award-winning documentary, Summer of Soul about the Harlem Cultural Festival (1969), singer Nina Simone performs “Backlash Blues,” a poem by her friend Langston Hughes. Five decades later, Beyonce performed a rousing version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” for her Homecoming tour in 2019. The poem, affectionately called the Black National Anthem, was originally written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900. Across these multiple decades, (and long before) African American musicians have invoked Black Literature, while African American writers have referenced Black music.

This roundtable seeks papers on the intersections between African American music and writers. Questions to consider include, but are not limited to:

How have African American writers invoked Black music? Conversely, how have Black musicians invoked Black writers?

How can we theorize the connections between Black musicians and Black writers?

How can these intersections inform our pedagogy?

Since each defined era of African American Literature has been tethered to music, how can we situate contemporary Black music and Black Literature?

Papers can address any aspect of African American Literature and its connection to music, from any era of literary/music production (colonial era until now). Submit proposals to:

Please address questions to Dr. Donavan L. Ramon at