Distinguished Professor in the Humanities & Professor of Twentieth-Century American Literature and Culture
La Vinia Delois Jennings’s course offerings have ranged from undergraduate honors courses to graduate seminars bearing provocative titles such as “Racial Passing and the New Millennium Minstrel Show”; “Consciousness and Memory: The Materialization and Visualization of the Immaterial in Twentieth-Century Literature and Film”; and “Identifiable Qualities: West African Traditional Cosmologies in the Novels of Toni Morrison.”
She has received the Jefferson Prize (1999), an award given by the Chancellor and one of the University’s highest; the Junior Faculty Teaching Award (1995-96), given by the College of Arts and Sciences; and the John C. Hodges Excellence in Teaching Award (1994), presented by the University of Tennessee’s English Department. In 1998, Dr. Jennings was appointed a Fulbright Senior Lecturer at the University of Málaga in Spain. From 2010-2013, she held a Lindsay Young Professorship. In 2013, the College of Arts and Sciences appointed her Distinguished Professor in the Humanities.
Active in numerous professional organizations, Professor Jennings has given papers and organized panel regularly at the meetings of the Modern Language Association, the College Language Association, the African Literature Association, the Toni Morrison Society, and the International Conference on Caribbean Literature. She serves on the board of The Toni Morrison Society Bench by the Road Project, a memorial history and commemorative initiative.
Professor Jennings is the author of Toni Morrison and the Idea of Africa (Cambridge UP, 2008) which won the 2008 Toni Morrison Society Prize for Best Single-Authored Book on the literary work of the Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. The critical study also received the College Language Association’s Outstanding Scholarship Award. On May 25, 2018, her edited collection, Margaret Garner: The Premiere Performances of Toni Morrison’s Libretto (Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2016), received the Toni Morrison Society Book Prize 2015-17 for Best Edited Book on the work of the Nobel laureate.
Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Recent Media Interviews
The Saturday Evening Post
“America’s First Black Opera Composer Left Behind a Rich Untapped Archive.” Nicholas Gilmore. October 9, 2019.
The World – Public Radio International, BBC
“Toni Morrison Appreciation.” Marco Werman. August, 6, 2019.
The New York Times
“’Voodoo,’ Opera by the African-American Composer H. Lawrence Freeman, Is Revived.” Michael Cooper. June 21, 2015.
The Wall Street Journal
“A White Woman Searches for Her Black Family.”; Amy Dockser Marcus. November 1, 2019.
- Toni Morrison and the Idea of Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008. Reprinted 2009. First paperback edition 2010.
- Alice Childress. New York: Macmillan, 1995.
Edited Collections of Essays
- Margaret Garner: The Premiere Performances of Toni Morrison’s Libretto. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2016.
- Zora Neale Hurston, Haiti, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. Northwestern UP, 2013.
- At Home and Abroad: Historicizing Twentieth-Century Whiteness in Literature and Performance. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 2009.
Edited Primary Works
- The Negro in Music and Drama by H. Lawrence Freeman. Forthcoming
- A Short Walk by Alice Childress. Afterword by La Vinia Delois Jennings. New York: Feminist P, 2006.
- “The Black Woman’s Life as a Minstrel Show.” Afterword. A Short Walk. Alice Childress. New York: Feminist P, 2006. 335-58.
- “Reflection of Self as Other: Mimetic Parallels Between Minstrelsy and Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities.” Staging a Cultural Paradigm. The Political and the Personal in American Drama.” Ed. Barbara Ozieblo and Miriam López-Rodríguez. Brussels: P.I.E.-Peter Lang, 2002. 307-22.
- “Segregated Sisterhood: Anger, Racism, and Feminism in Alice Childress’s Florence and Wedding Band.” Black Women Playwrights: Visions on the American Stage. Ed. Carol P. Marsh-Lockett. New York: Garland, 1999. 43-53.
- “A Mercy: Toni Morrison Plots the Formation of Racial Slavery in Seventeenth-Century America.” Callaloo 32.2 (2009): 645-49.
- The First Black Actors on the Great White Way by Susan Curtis. American Literature 71.4 (December 1999): 809-10.
- Katie’s Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community by Katie Geneva Cannon. African American Review 32.2 (Summer 1998): 17-19.
Toni Morrison Society: Bench by the Road Project
Selected Bench Dedications
- Howard University. Washington, DC. April 5, 2019.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. South-View Cemetery. Atlanta, Georgia. April 7, 2018.
- Daniel A. P. Murray. Neptune Plaza, Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. April 28, 2017.
- The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Harlem, New York. July 24, 2016.
- Spelman Library. Atlanta, Georgia. March 8, 2016.
- Cynthia Hesdra. Nyack, New York. May 18, 2015.
- Eden Cemetery. Collingdale, Pennsylvania. April 24, 2014.
- Aimé Césaire. Fort-de-France, Martinique. June 26, 2013.
- Brister Freeman. The Walden Woods Project. Lincoln, Massachusetts. May 22, 2013.
- The Mitchelville Preservation Project. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. April 16, 2013.
- First Congregational Church, UCC. Atlanta, Georgia. May 27, 2012.
- Caesar Robbins. The Drinking Gourd Project. Concord, Massachusetts. May 21, 2011.
- Louis Delgrès. Twentieth Arrondissement. Paris, France. November 6, 2010.
- Sullivan’s Island. Charleston, South Carolina. July 26, 2008.