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Project on the History of Black Writing

About Us

Who Are We?

The Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW) has been in the forefront of research and inclusion efforts in higher education for twenty-five years. Founded in 1983 at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, HBW is committed to 

  1. literary recovery work in black studies
  2. textual scholarship, book history and pedagogy;
  3. professional development, curriculum change and innovation; and
  4. public literacy programming 

As a major site for training graduate students and teachers, HBW operates within a network of collaborating professionals who are employed at various institutions and are often in different disciplines. 


The project’s accomplishments include:

  1. The Afro-American Novels digital database;
  2. Reprints of recovered texts;
  3. Six NEH-funded teaching institutes for educators and younger scholars;
  4. The Langston Hughes National Poetry Project;
  5. Encarta Africana: Library of Black America (novels 1853-1919);
  6. The Cambridge Companion to the African American Novel; and
  7. The Cambridge History of African American Literature.


The principal component of the HBW is its manuscript collection, which includes photographic copies of 480 texts dating from 1861 to the present, a growing archive of rare books, and more than 100 rare 20th-century journals. The collection also contains information on more than 1,500 items of little-known literature by African Americans. Bibliographic information acquired by the project is published and disseminated regularly through print and digital formats.


In addition to contributions from private individuals, major funding support for HBW has been provided by the Ford Foundation, the Lemelson Foundation for innovation and invention in Higher Education (Hampshire College), Microsoft Corporation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Institutional support has come from the University of Mississippi (1983-89), Northeastern University (1990-1998), and the University of Kansas (1999- present).

HBW Board

HBW has associations through its work and practice with the Smithsonian's Museum of American History, Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, the Toni Morrison Society, the College Language Association, and the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center at Jackson State University. The Project has a director, project manager, and three staff members who work closely with an advisory board.


HBW provides paid internships for qualified graduate and undergraduate students through the English Department at The University of Kansas.

HBW Staff

HBW StaffRow Two:
   Lacey McAfee, Maryemma Graham, Yuan Ding, Kenton    Rambsy

Row One:
   Doretha Williams, Suzanne Allen, Justin Pavlic


Resources for

Resources for ScholarsResources for EducatorsResources for Graduate StudentsResources for Youth