Black Bibliography Project

Co-Directed by Jacqueline Goldsby (Yale) and Meredith McGill (Rutgers)

Over the last thirty years, the field of African American literary studies has grown rapidly in size and importance. It is now a vital field of specialization in any English department of merit. And yet scholars of African-American literature still lack thorough bibliographical knowledge of many of the texts at the heart of the field; the opening of the literary canon to writers of color coincided with the decline in the practice of scholarly bibliography—the systematic study of books as physical objects. This history has produced significant unevenness in the resources available to scholars: criticism of canonical white writers is buttressed by authoritative accounts of the production and transmission of their texts, while scholars studying African-American literature are often forced to sort out complex and confusing publication histories on their own, without specialized training in print history.

The Black Bibliography Project seeks to remedy this deficiency in two ways: by creating authoritative web-based bibliographies of major African American authors and by training the next generation of scholars in principles of bibliographic description.

With the support of the Mellon Foundation, Yale’s Beinecke Library, and Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences, Jacqueline Goldsby and I have spent 2018-19 working with a metadata team at the Beinecke Library to develop a pilot data model for this project. Jackie has written a bit more about this project here.   We will be hosting a conference November 14-15, 2019 at Yale to report on our progress and to outline next steps.  Stay tuned!