Routledge Companion to Contemporary African American Literature

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Riché Richardson and Philathia Bolton
contact email: 

Routledge Companion to Contemporary African American Literature


Co-Editors: Riché Richardson, Philathia Rufaro Bolton

300-word abstracts due:

September 15, 2024

Twenty-first century African American literature, a field anchored in Black literary inheritance that spans back to the late 18th century, is in its third decade of development. Its most contemporary iterations draw on the fullness of this legacy, while incorporating works that demonstrate new and experimental literary forms and genres influenced by the latest technological developments within the current digital age. Such dynamism soundly resists and rejects narratives that relegate African American literature to the past and presume its irrelevance, decline, and obsolescence. To the contrary, advancements in contemporary African American literature attest to its viability and perseverance in the here and now, marked by continued efforts to apprehend its contributions through recently published and forthcoming volumes on contemporary African American literature, including this one. 

The Routledge Companion to Contemporary African American Literature seeks to provide readers a look at the way certain scholars of the African diaspora understand and engage multimodal texts in this contemporary moment with a nod towards the historical traditions from which these texts emerge. This body of writing built on publications such as Harriet Jacobs Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s A Red Record (1895), W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk (1903), and Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940), to name a few, is partly characterized by protest and resistance. Black American literature of the last decade, inclusive of scholarly criticism, bears such marks.          

The twenty-first century has been one in which we have witnessed a burgeoning of activism under the heading of newer movements such as Black Lives Matter, #SayHerName, Mothers of the Movement and #TakeAKnee, which also catalyzed new waves of Black student movement, a movement fully nationalized and globalized as it culminated in protests across all 50 states and numerous cities around the world in the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the hands of the police. Concomitantly, there has also been a backlash characterized by propaganda and panic among reactionaries in the U.S. public sphere that has culminated in legislation across numerous states, which has included a barrage of insistent and mystifying legal injunctions against teaching critical race theory in K-12 schools given the reality that this has never been the case to begin with, concerted opposition to teaching Black history, including the topic of slavery, in schools, as well as targeting the books of Black authors for censorship. 

Not only did African American literature continue to undergo notable developments and transformations during the second full decade of the new millennium,  but also, a multiplicity of its texts were adapted, disseminated, and discussed in media ranging from film and television to newer platforms on social media and via streaming services such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix, a climate that will also no doubt impact and inflect conversations in the field in the coming years. Such fascinating and provocative revisitings and adaptations of texts merit critical reflection and make this newest century of African American literature’s development an exciting moment for the reconsideration of works produced and published across genres within their larger and longer literary inheritance. These conversations inevitably carry with them an awareness of the ways in which certain works produced in Black American literary history continue to resist certain political imperatives historically associated with the protest tradition. This resistance is also part of the larger Black American literary history and the Routledge Companion to Contemporary African American Literature also welcomes for publication how such conversations have manifested in the twenty-first century context. Finally, we are interested in what some critics have introduced as newer ways of thinking about African American literature produced across its earlier centuries that move beyond its conventional methods and interpretative imperatives related to historicization, periodization, and theorization, as scholars have examined affective registers, from feeling to sound, further complicating everything we think we know about African American literature. 



This critical anthology project, The Companion to Contemporary African American Literature, which is under contract at Routledge and is co-edited by Riché Richardson and Philathia Rufaro Bolton, invites the submission of 300-word abstracts for critical essays that reflect on these new developments in African American literary studies. We welcome proposals that speak to subjects addressed in this call. Potential writers might specifically examine the following or propose something that is similar in conversation:


  • Impact of technological advancements on both literary genres and form in contemporary African American literature
  • Contemporary adaptations of works that were published during earlier periods of African American literature
  • Black comics and superhero tropes; film and television adaptations of the same (e.g., Black Panther; Black Lightning )
  • Allusions to and adaptations of earlier narratives and forms [e.g., Netlfix’s Alice (2022), Queen Sugar (2016-2022), and Strays (2023); Hulu’s Kindred (2022), etc. ]
  • Politics of publication and institutionalization, including the conditions of production
  • African American literature’s reception within and impact on Africa and the diaspora in a twenty-first century context
  • Teaching and pedagogical approaches for contemporary African American literature
  • New or nuanced configurations of African American literature; what it means to experience storytelling in the African American tradition in the 21st century


Proposed essays in the form of 300-word abstracts are due to co-editors by September 15th. Please send as a pdf file via email to