Dear ALSCW members and friends:

We are delighted to announce the ALSCW's spring Zoom series. These virtual events will help to keep our membership connected and to advance our organization's mission to advance the study and creation of literature. We are deeply grateful to our participants—it’s an incredibly talented lineup—and to all of you for your support of the ALSCW (information on memberships and renewals can be found at We will send out a link a week to ten days before each event.


J. Chester Johnson discusses his book, Damaged Heritage: The Elaine Race Massacre
April 7th, 6 pm EST

The 1919 Elaine Race Massacre, arguably the worst in our country’s history, has been widely unknown for the better part of a century, thanks to the whitewashing of history. In 2008, Johnson was asked to write the Litany of Offense and Apology for a National Day of Repentance, where the Episcopal Church formally apologized for its role in transatlantic slavery and related evils. In his research, Johnson happened upon a treatise by historian and anti-lynching advocate Ida B. Wells on the Elaine Massacre, where more than a hundred and possibly hundreds of African-American men, women, and children perished at the hands of white posses, vigilantes, and federal troops in rural Phillips County, Arkansas. Johnson would discover that his beloved grandfather had been a member of the KKK and participated in the massacre. The discovery shook him to his core. Thereafter, he met Sheila L. Walker, a descendant of African-American victims of the massacre, and she and Johnson committed themselves to reconciliation. Damaged Heritage brings to light a deliberately erased chapter in American history, and offers a blueprint for how our pluralistic society can at last acknowledge—and repudiate—our collective damaged heritage and begin a path towards true healing.

J. Chester Johnson is an acclaimed poet, essayist, and translator, and the author of Damaged Heritage: The Elaine Race Massacre and A Story of Reconciliation. He is also the author of several celebrated poetry collections and non-fiction work and was one of two poets (the other being W. H. Auden) on the drafting committee for the retranslated Psalms in The Book of Common Prayer. Johnson also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U. S. Treasury Department under Jimmy Carter and lives in New York City with his wife.

Crisis, History, and Representation: New Work by Russ Castronovo and Robert S. Levine
May 12th, 6 pm EST

Russ Castronovo and Robert Levine will discuss their new work: Castronovo's book manuscript, Insecure: Information and Terror before 9/11, and Levine's The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson (W. W. Norton, forthcoming August 2021). Their conversation will examine the role of literary and historical representation at moments of crisis. They will also explore how the methods and objects of literary study can address political conflict, state power, and racial inequities.

Russ Castrovovo is Director of the Center for the Humanities and Tom Paine Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include Propaganda 1776: Secrets, Leaks, and Revolutionary Communications in Early America; Beautiful Democracy: Aesthetics and Anarchy in a Global Era; Necro Citizenship: Death, Eroticism, and the Public Sphere in the Nineteenth-Century United States; and Fathering the Nation: American Genealogies of Slavery and Freedom.

Robert S. Levine is Professor of English and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland-College Park. His recent books include The Lives of Frederick Douglass (2016), and Race, Transnationalism, and Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies (2018). He has edited a number of volumes, including Frederick Douglass and Herman Melville: Essays in Relation (2008) and the Norton Critical Edition of Melville’s Pierre (2017). He is the General Editor of The Norton Anthology of American Literature. He is a member of the ALSCW Council.

Ernest Suarez
David M. O'Connell Professor of English
Executive Director, Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers
Chair, Department of English