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Keith Leonard

Associate Professor Department of Literature

Additional Positions at AU

  • Faculty Director, Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars Program
  • Director, African American and African Diaspora Studies Program
Keith D Leonard is the author of Fettered Genius: The African American Bardic Poet from Slavery to Civil Rights. His publications, presentations, and courses have revolved around his study of political consciousness in African American poetry and poetics and in hip-hop culture. His current interests include African Americans artists in Paris, jazz in African American culture, and the conception of love, sexuality, and family as political ideals by black writers. He is currently working on a book project exploring the legacy of civil rights movement activism, Black Nationalist ideals, and African American social mobility for contemporary African American avant-garde artist collectives, from Umbra to the Dark Room Collective to Cave Canem.


PhD, Stanford University MA, UNC Chapel Hill BA, English, Yale University

Languages Spoken
CAS - Literature
Battelle Tompkins - 227
Contact Info
(202) 885-2961 (Office)

Send email to Keith Leonard

For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.
See Also
Literature Department
Penn State Conference on African American poetry
Furious Flower Conference Profile

Partnerships & Affiliations

  • George Moses Horton Society for the Study of African American Poetry

    Member (1998-present)


  • Fall 2018

    • LIT-435 Adv Studies in African Am Lit: Black Power
    • Description

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Selected Publications

  •  Fettered Genius: The African American Bardic Poet from Slavery to Civil Rights. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006
  • "Postmodern Soul: The Innovative Nostalgia of Thomas Sayers Ellis," Contemporary Literature 56.2 (Summer 2015): 340-371.  Winner of the L. S. Dembo prize for best article of the year.

  • “‘Which Me Will Survive’: Rethinking Identity, Reclaiming Audre Lorde.”                        Callaloo 35.3 (Summer 2012): 758-777   

  • "Yusef Komunyakaa's Blues: The Postmodern Music of Neon Vernacular" Callaloo 28.3 (Summer 2005): 825-849.
  • “Jazz in African American Literature” Blackwell’s Companion to African American Literature  (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010): 286-301.  
  • “We Wear the Mask: The Making of An African American Poet” Cambridge History of African American Literature (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011): 209-219.
  • “African American Women Poets and the Power of the Word.”  Cambridge Companion to African American Women's Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009): 168-186.  
  • “Verse Center: A Special Issue on Multi-Ethnic Poetics” Melus 35.2 June 2010 (co-editor)

Professional Presentations

  •  "Tupac: Resurrection" for National Portrait Gallery
  • "Mobilizing the Jazz Age: The Great Gatsby and "The New Negro" for the "Wisdom Wednesday Program" "The Big Read" sponsored by The National Endowment for the Arts, May 21, 2008
  • "Hip-Hop Poetics" at George Washington University, April 28, 2003
  • "Hip-Hop Poetics" at Diversity Day, Packer Collegiate, Brooklyn NY. February 26, 2003


Contribution to Poetry Foundation podcast on the career of Langston Hughes.February 19, 2007.

Work In Progress