The Life and Legacy of Sterling A. Brown, the Dean of Afro-American Literary Studies: A Special Issue of The Langston Hughes Review

Due Date: 03-05-2021

For many readers and scholars alike, Sterling A. Brown—noted poet, literary critic, and student of southern Black culture—remains in relative obscurity today, his role in the New Negro Movement and beyond overshadowed to a degree by the resounding legacies of figures such as Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, and others who have cemented their places in the African American literary canon.

This special issue of The Langston Hughes Review aims to expand critical review of this important yet underappreciated figure, building upon key texts such as Joanne V. Gabbin’s 1985 Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition, John Edgar Tidwell and Steven C. Tracy’s 2009 edited collection After Winter: The Art and Life of Sterling A. Brown, and Mark A. Sanders’s 1999 Afro-Modernist Aesthetics and the Poetry of Sterling A. Brown. Contributors are asked to consider, among other topics

  • the ways that Brown’s poetry worked to capture the life and the voice of the folk while “creat[ing] alternative aesthetic, cultural, and finally political space for black art and black lives in constant modal process” (Sanders xi);
  • the influence of Brown’s philosophy of and commentary on the blues as both poetry and record of the Black folk experience (see works such as his 1930 essay, “The Blues as Folk Poetry”) on poetry, hip-hop, and other forms of musical and cultural expression; and
  • how Brown expanded the representation of the African American experience in his art and through the texts he anthologized, challenging the racial molds he saw at work with stereotypes such as the contented slave, the tragic mulatto, and the Brute Negro.

Scholars interested in contributing to this special issue should submit both a CV and an abstract of approximately 350–500 words to Christopher Allen Varlack ( by 5 March 2021. Those whose abstracts are selected will be asked to submit articles (not to exceed 8,000 words, adhering to the latest edition of the MLA Handbook) by 14 January 2022 for peer review. As we work to expand awareness and appreciation of Sterling A. Brown, we also invite book reviews on the biographical and critical texts that have been developed on Brown over time; if you are interested in composing a book review, please reach out to Varlack in advance; all reviews must be assigned in order to avoid duplication. Book reviewers will be responsible for securing copies on their own.

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