Texas A&M Hopes to Lure Faculty, Students with Acquisition of Black Literary Journal, Editor

Article excerpt

UVA official calls editor's departure `painful.'

Although Texas A&M University's African American studies department is small -- currently two assistant professors teach courses -- university officials hope that having Dr. Charles Rowell and his award-winning African American literary journal Callaloo on board will be a catalyst for attracting more faculty and students.

It was Dr. Janis Stout, dean of faculties and assistant provost at Texas A&M, who got the ball rolling last year to lure Rowell to Texas from the University of Virginia (see Black Issues, Aug. 30).

"I remember it very clearly. There was an administrative retreat, and I'd taken copies of Callaloo. I said to the others that I'd really like to bring Dr. Rowell here," Stout recalls. "As my colleagues sat around, there emerged a unanimous sense that if we could do this, it would have great impact on Texas A&M.

"We're ecstatic. We think having Dr. Rowell and Callaloo here will provide a center of energy and intellectualism," says Stout.

Dr. Charles Johnson, dean of liberal arts at Texas A&M, says supporting Callaloo under-scores the university's commitment to diversity, and feels that Rowell's presence will broaden the scholarly vistas of undergraduate and graduate students.

In addition to directing Callaloo, Rowell will teach one African American or Southern literature course each semester.

"Callaloo will be appreciated and supported at Texas A&M," said Rowell in a telephone interview.

Though Rowell refused to divulge figures, he says Callaloo's budget would increase threefold and his quarters would be five times the size of its UVA space.

Throughout its 25-year history, the quarterly journal has featured such luminaries as Albert Murray, Gwendolyn Brooks, Alice Walker, Ernest Gaines and Amiri Baraka. It has helped launch the careers of Elizabeth Alexander, Carl Phillips, Brenda Marie Osbey, Thomas Glave, Kevin Young, Thomas Sayers Ellis and others.

Johns Hopkins Press will continue to print the literary quarterly, regarded as the premier African American literary journal as well as the oldest continually published African American literary publication.

One of Rowell's stipulations to the move was bringing his managing editor Ginger Thornton. Thornton has been managing editor for over a year but has been associated with Callaloo since 1991.

"I'll miss many people at UVA, but it's nice to have a fresh start," says Thornton. "With each move for Callaloo there has been a corresponding expansion in content. Exciting things seem to cluster around a move.

"This move will allow Callaloo to operate far beyond anything we've enjoyed in the past," says Thornton, who is returning to her native state and will be a teaching assistant at Texas A&M. "It also changes the landscape of the African American program at Texas A&M and puts it within striking distance of having an incredibly rich African American program, which is hard to do these days. …