Black Literary Suite

Attendees of the 2017 Black Literary Suite, “the Mississippi Renaissance,” view the gallery hosted at KU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs

The Black Literary Suite (BLS) is HBW's exhibit dedicated to introducing the community to lesser-known figures in literature and the arts. Accordingly, BLS is an opportunity for members of the HBW student staff to learn and refine their research skills. Past BLS exhibits have featured authors with a Kansas connection like Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes, Kansas sports figures that complemented KU's “Race and Sports Symposium” and the adaptation of Black fiction to feature length films.  

On This Page

BLS 2022: Black Beyond Borders

This year’s BLS highlights Afro-Latinx authors and scholars, and for this online exhibit, we have compiled a list of books from Afro-Latina/x women writers. While this exhibit features texts from different cultures within the Afro-Latinx and Afro-Latin American diaspora, a common thread across the works is the tradition of reclaiming historical and cultural narratives. The selections all exemplify the power of fiction to redefine the cultural narratives and positions of Afro-Latinx communities in their respective societies.

The following list consists of historical fiction, short story collections, autobiographical fiction, and speculative fiction from prominent and promising Afro-Latinx women writers. The authors represent nations and identities often ignored in studies of the Latinx/Latin American diaspora as well as the African diaspora: Afro-Puerto Ricans and Caribbeans living in New York, Afro-Haitians, Afro-Cubans, Afro-Mexicans in the United States, Afro-Dominicans, and Afro Brazilians. Moreover, the texts explore themes of revolution, femme freedom, and a sense of belonging as well as nonbelonging among Afro-Latinx women. As a result, these works foreground the voices of people at the intersection of multiple oppressions—racism, sexism, classism, violence, and xenophobia—within their communities. This list provides just a few examples of how Blackness is multifaceted and contains a multitude of experiences.

BLS 2020: Black Writing in Reel Time

Countless works by Black authors find multiple lives through film adaptations which recontextualize the ways in which modern audiences engage with these narratives. From Charles Chesnutt’s novel The House Behind the Cedars, and the 1927 film directed by Oscar Micheaux, to Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and the 2017 film directed by George Tillman Jr., adaptations renew attention to works by Black authors and expand the discussion of a range of topics, including race, identity, coming of age, class conflict, and Black love. Black film, like Black writing, gives us history, past and present, real and reimagined. This year's BLS includes a timeline, interactive map, and selected filmography.

BLS 2019: Researching While Black

Unlike past Black Literary Suites, the 2019 BLS “Researching While Black: The Project on the History of Black Writing at 35 Years” focuses on the history and achievements of HBW itself. This timeline and accompanying exhibit trace how HBW has grown from a small research unit at the University of Mississippi to a multi-project, grant-funded center. This BLS gives an in-depth overview of the creation and development of HBW’s primary research initiatives, including the Black Book Interactive Project (BBIP), the Black Literary Suite (BLS), and the Gems initiative. 

BLS 2018: Reclaiming the Black Body, Women Writing Women

This exhibit is both a physical and digital interface acknowledging the primacy of physical violence against the female Black body. “Reclaiming the Black Body: Women Writing Women” seeks to open up a new conversation through works that tell of Black women making and remaking themselves. We use reclaiming here to refer to both the lived experiences and ideological space that allow for innovative and powerful expressions of female sexuality and power. 

BLS 2017: Mississippi Renaissance

We coined the term “Mississippi Renaissance” to highlight the importance of Mississippi to Black writing and culture, and to place this movement in conversation with earlier renaissance efforts. This exhibit explores the commonalities in form and content, symbols found in Black Mississippian texts and how they have changed over time. This audio and visual exhibit asks what are the historical social conditions of Mississippi that heavily influence Black writing and how is the classical meaning of “renaissance” applicable.

BLS 2016: Sports Figures with a Kansas Connection

This visual and audio BLS exhibit highlights sports figures with a unique connection to the University of Kansas and to the state of Kansas. Notable figures include Wilt Chamberlin (Basketball), Charlie Tidwell (Track), Marlene Mawson ("Mother of KU Women's Athletics"), Marilynn Smith (Golf), and many more.

BLS 2015: Kansas Authors Edition

Although not as popularly associated with African American literature as some other areas of the United States, Kansas has a rich tradition of Black writing in the Midwest. A number of important African American authors were born or lived in the Sunflower State, and their work often reflects their time in Kansas. This audio and visual exhibit highlights four important black writers—Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Frank Marshall Davis, and Kevin Young—with Kansas connections.

BLS 2013: Histories of African American Short Stories, A Digital Humanities Exhibit

This collection showcases key features of short stories by Black writers and at the same time highlights the possibilities of digital technologies, especially text mining, to present information about African American literature. The visual exhibit features an analysis of the works by Charles Chesnutt, Edward P. Jones, Richard Wright, Rudolph Fisher, Toni Cade Bambara, and Zora Neale Hurston.

BLS 2012: Wikipedia Edition

Wikipedia has become a prevalent site for information on a wide variety of historical events and figures, including African American literary works and authors. Nearly half of the books represented in our “100 African American Novels” project are documented on Wikipedia. Some novels, including Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Richard Wright’s Native Son, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved, have extensively developed Wikipedia pages. This exhibit highlights the different ways that the world’s most famous online encyclopedia presents information about Black writers in our novel collection.

BLS 2011: New York Edition

The posters and recordings in this BLS reveal useful ways for considering the centrality of migration and location in African American literature. In the 23 novels featured in this exhibit, NYC—most often, Harlem—is a major location for each novel’s storyline. The prevalence of urban settings like New York City for novels suggests that writers view city environments as fertile ground for exploration in their narratives. Out of 19 novelists featured in this exhibit, 5 were born in NYC, 13 were living in NYC at the time of the novel’s publication and 17 called NYC a permanent residence for at least 5 years. Surveying this body of novels at one time gives readers new insights into African American literature and culture.