- PhD, American Literature and Folklore, The Ohio State University, 1973
- MA, English, The Ohio State University, 1972
- BA, English, Stillman College, 1969
- African American Literature
- Martin Luther King Jr., Heroism, and African American Literature (Alabama, 2014).
- The Scary Mason-Dixon Line: African American Writers and the South (LSU, 2009). Choice magazine selected it as one of its “Outstanding Academic Titles” of 2009.
- Summer Snow: Reflections from a Black Daughter of the South (memoir; Beacon, 2003).
- South of Tradition: Essays on African American Literature (Georgia, 2002).
- Saints, Sinners, Saviors: Strong Black Women in African American Literature (Palgrave/St. Martin’s, 2001).
- The Power of the Porch: The Storyteller’s Craft in Zora Neale Hurston, Gloria Naylor, and Randall Kenan (Georgia, 1996). (Lamar Memorial Lectures)
- Fiction and Folklore: The Novels of Toni Morrison (Tennessee, 1991).
- Black Women in the Fiction of James Baldwin (Tennessee, 1985).
- Exorcising Blackness: Historical and Literary Lynching and Burning Rituals (Indiana, 1984).
- From Mammies to Militants: Domestics in Black American Literature (Temple, 1982).
- Reading Contemporary African American Drama: Fragments of History, Fragments of Self (Peter Lang, 2007—with Jennifer Larson).
- The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature (Oxford, 2001).
- The Literature of the American South: A Norton Anthology (W. W. Norton, 1998).
- Call and Response: The Riverside Anthology of the African American Literary Tradition (Houghton Mifflin, 1998).
- The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (Oxford, 1997).
- The Oxford Companion to Women’s Writing in the United States (Oxford, 1995). [Edited essays on African American women writers and topics related to the study of African American literature.]
- Afro-American Poets After 1955 (Gale Research, 1985).
- Afro-American Writers After 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers ( Gale Research, 1985).
- Afro-American Fiction Writers After 1955 (Gale Research, 1984).
- New Essays on Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain (Cambridge, 1996).
- Selected Works of Ida B. Wells-Barnett (Oxford, 1991).
- Afro-American Writers, 1940-1955 (Gale Research, 1988).
- Afro-American Writers from the Harlem Renaissance to 1940 (Gale Research, 1987).
- Afro-American Writers Before the Harlem Renaissance (Gale Research, 1986).
Selected Contributions to Books
- “African American Lives: Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Eldridge Cleaver.” In Cambridge Companion to Autobiography, eds. Emily O. Wittman and Maria DeBattista (Cambridge, 2014), pp. 180-194.
- Untangling History, Dismantling Fear: Teaching Tayari Jones’s Leaving Atlanta,” for The Contemporary African American Literary Canon: Theory and Pedagogy, ed. Lovalerie King and Shirley Turner-Moody (Indiana, 2013), pp. 269-284.
- “History as Fact and Fiction” for the Cambridge History of African American Literature, ed. Maryemma Graham and Jerry W. Ward, Jr. (Cambridge, 2011), pp. 451-496.
- “Celebrating Bigamy and Other Outlaw Behaviors: Hurston, Reputation, and the Problems Inherent in Labeling Janie a Feminist,” in Approaches to Teaching Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Other Works, ed. John W. Lowe (MLA Publications, 2009), pp. 67-80.
- “Trapped in Lines and Language: Distorted Selves in Personal Ads,” Introduction to Racialized Politics of Desire in Personal Ads, ed. Neal A. Lester & Maureen Daly Goggin (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), pp. 1-5.
- “Watchers Watching Watchers: Positioning Characters and Readers in Baldwin’s ‘Sonny’s Blues’ and Morrison’s ‘Recitatif,’” in James Baldwin and Toni Morrison: Comparative Critical and Theoretical Essays, ed. Lovalerie King and Lynn Orilla Scott (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2006), pp. 103-120.
- “The Limits of Lovemaking and Community: Infertility in Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Revista de Estudios Norteamericanos, Seville, Spain (2017).
- “Alice Walker’s ‘Roselily’: Meditations on Culture, Politics, and Chains.” Southern Quarterly 54:2 (Winter 2017): 28-48.
- “Romantic and Romanticized International Journeying: Marita Golden’s Migrations of the Heart.” Obsidian II: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora 41: 1-2 (Fall 2015): 209-235.
- “Peace in the War of Desire: Richard Wright’s ‘Long Black Bong.'” CLA Journal 56:3 (March 2015): 188-208.
- “Does Northern Travel Relieve Slavery? ‘Vacations’ in Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s Wench.” South Atlantic Review 78: 3-4 (Fall 2015): 90-109.
- “Nikki Giovanni: Literary Survivor Across Centuries,” in Appalachian Heritage 40:2 (2012): 34-47.
- “The Terrible Pangs of Compromise: Racial Reconciliation in African American Literature,” in The Cresset LXXV No. 4 (2012): 16-27.
- “William Melvin Kelley’s Real Live, Invisible South,” South Central Review, 22:1 (Spring 2005): 26-47.
Selected Awards, Honors, & Grants
- National Humanities Center Fellowship (2018-2019)
- The Richard Beale Davis Award for Lifetime Achievement in Southern Literary Studies (2018)
- SEC Faculty Achievement Award for the University of Alabama (2018)
- The Clarence E. Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing, The University of Alabama (2018)
- Honorary Degree, The College of William and Mary (2018)
- Selected by Graduate Students in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alabama to deliver the annual Last Lecture (2017)
- The “Trudier Harris Distinguished Professorship” created at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2014)
- Inducted into the Stillman College Educator Hall of Fall (2013)
- Elizabeth Agee Award for Best Manuscript in American Literary Studies, University of Alabama Press (2013)
- College Language Association Creative Scholarship Award for The Scary Mason-Dixon Line: African American Writers and the South (2010)
- Inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent (2010)
- Faculty Director, Honors Study Abroad Program, Cape Town, South Africa (Fall 2006)
- John Hurt Fisher Award for “Career Achievement in Letters” from the South Atlantic Association of Departments of English (2005)
- State of North Carolina Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Teaching (2005)
- Faculty Marshal, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2003-2009)
- Eugene Current-Garcia Award—Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar (Spring 2002)
- Presented “Divine December,” the Commencement Address for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on 20 December 2001
- William C. Friday/Class of 1986 Award for Excellence in Teaching (2000)
- National Humanities Center Fellowship (1996-1997)
- Residence at the Rockefeller Study and Conference Center, Bellagio, Italy (19 September–17 October 1994)
- The Ohio State University, College of Humanities, Distinguished Alumni Award (1994)
- Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1989-90)
- Roscoe B. Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (UNC, Spring 1988)
- South Atlantic Modern Language Association Teaching Award (1987)
- College Language Association Creative Scholarship Award for Black Women in the Fiction of James Baldwin (1987)
Selected Memberships in Scholarly and Professional Organizations
- Modern Language Association; American Folklore Society; South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA); College Language Association; The Langston Hughes Society; The Richard Wright Circle; The Toni Morrison Society (Charter Member); The Zora Neale Hurston Society; The Alice Childress Society; The St. George Tucker Society.
Professional Conferences and Invited Lectures
Since I entered the profession in 1973, I have lectured throughout the United States, as well as in Poland, Germany, France, Canada, Jamaica, Spain, Italy, England, Northern Ireland, and South Africa. Brief named lecturing appointments have included: Woodrow Wilson Scholar-in-Residence at Spelman College (1989) and at Bennett College (1990); Martin Luther King, Jr./Cesar Chavez/Rosa Parks Visiting Distinguished Scholar in English at Wayne State University (1989); Eudora Welty Professor of Southern Studies at Millsaps College (1990); Mellon Scholar-in-Residence at Stillman College (1991); NEH Visiting Distinguished Scholar at the University of Nevada at Reno (1991); Alice Dunbar-Nelson Eminent Scholar, Dillard University (2003); and Brackenridge Distinguished Visiting Proressor, UT San Antonio (2015).