Call for Abstracts for Critical Insights: Civil Rights

Christopher Varlack's picture
Call for Publications
March 16, 2016
Subject Fields: 
African American History / Studies, American History / Studies, Black History / Studies, Contemporary History, Human Rights

From its flawed notion of “separate but equal” to the rampant violence against black bodies throughout the twentieth century, the United States faced a clear racial divide perpetuated by its Jim Crow culture and the disenfranchisement of blacks. In response, on August 28, 1963, noted American civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, urging radical social and political change in a society marred by a rich history of segregation and discrimination. Since then, we have recognized this speech as a symbol of the enduring struggle for equal civil rights and the pursuit of the core values upon which the United States was based. The 2015 Cambridge Companion to American Civil Rights Literature offered an updated examination of works such as King’s, bringing the discussion of the Civil Rights Movement and its seminal texts into the twenty-first century. However, this collection of scholarly essays has not gone far enough.


To recognize that struggle and the literature produced in response to the trials of the time, Critical Insights: Civil Rights (currently under contract with Grey House Publishing, with an anticipated publication date of Spring 2017) seeks contributions from emerging and established scholars alike in order to expand the conversation of American civil rights literature into the present day. While the Civil Rights Movement covered the period from 1954 to 1968, this edited volume seeks to push beyond that limited period, encouraged by the current efforts as well, such as the Black Lives Matter Movement, and their recognition that the fight for increased civil rights did not end in the 1960s but is still ongoing in the social, political, judicial, and educational sectors even today. This focus in mind, we seek abstracts of three hundred to five hundred words in length (or completed drafts of approximately 5000 to 5500 words in length) for consideration.


Accepted projects ultimately will consider a diverse range of works of the era, including speeches, essays, autobiographies, novels, poems, and plays to offer a more representative inquiry into the subject of American civil rights literature. Potential contributors are encouraged to study the well-known and canonized works, such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1964), Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice (1968), and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1956), but contributors are also strongly encouraged to call attention to potentially lesser known and forgotten works—pieces such as James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie (1964) or Home by LeRoi Jones (1966)—and works by women authors generally under-represented in scholarship. Finally, contributors are encouraged to draw connections across time, linking literature of the Civil Rights Movement with modern works such as Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric (2014). The collection will include at least fourteen articles in total in the following categories:


  1. Cultural/Historical Context chapter (approximately 50 words): provides an overview of the civil rights struggle in the United States and how that has shaped the various works that authors have produced
  2. Compare/Contrast chapter (approximately 5000 words): offers a comparative review of two or more seminal works (potentially between the 1950/60s and more modern literature) in order to assert a larger claim
  3. Critical Reception chapter (approximately 5000 words): examines the criticism and the state of the debate surrounding a key work or particularly influential author of the era
  4. Critical Lens chapter (approximately 5000 words): uses one or more literary theory in the analysis of a noted text or series of texts unified by subject/theme


The remaining ten articles will cover a range of topics and will also be selected from the abstracts received. All articles must engage primary and secondary source material, following MLA format. Accepted articles will be between 5000 and 6000 words total, including endnotes and the Works Cited page. Authors must also submit a biographical statement, abstract, and list of index entries along with their final draft. For this work, accepted authors will receive a copy of the published collection, a $250 stipend, and a discount toward additional copies of the volume.


The anticipated deadlines are provided below, though there is room for negotiation should that be required upon acceptance of your proposal.


Deadline for the Submission of Abstracts: midnight, March 16, 2016

Notification of Acceptance: no later than March 23, 2016

Deadline for Rough Drafts: no later than June 22, 2016

Notification of Requested Revisions: no later than July 6, 2016

Deadline for Final Drafts: no later than September 21, 2016


Please submit abstracts to as a Word or PDF attachment along with a CV and a short biographical statement. The volume editor, Christopher Allen Varlack, will confirm receipt via E-mail. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Contact Info: 

Christopher Allen Varlack

Department of English

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

1000 Hilltop Circle

Baltimore, Maryland 21250

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