About the Founder
Rudolph P. Byrd (1953 – 2011) began his academic career at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he was a member of the Department of English and Chair of the Program of African and African American Studies. He also held a faculty appointment at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware, where he was a member of the Department of English. He joined the faculty of Emory University in 1991where his service to the University included an appointment as Director of the Program of African American Studies. He was the founding director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies at Emory University.
Professor Byrd’s research interests were in American and African American literature, folklore, philosophy, gender studies, sexuality, and photography. He was the author and editor of ten books: Jean Toomer’s Years With Gurdjieff: Portrait of an Artist (University of Georgia Press, 1990); Essentials: the Aphorisms of Jean Toomer ed. (University of Georgia Press,1992; reprint Hill Street Press,1999) with a preface by Charles Johnson; Generations in Black and White: Photographs of Carl Van Vechten from the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection ed. (University of Georgia Press, 1993); I Call Myself an Artist: Writings By and About Charles Johnson ed. (Indiana University Press, 1999); Charles Johnson’s Novels: Writing the American Palimpsest (Indiana University Press, 2005); The Essential Writings of James Weldon Johnson ed. (Random House, 2008) with a foreword by Charles Johnson; and The World Has Changed: Conversations With Alice Walker ed. (New York: The New Press, 2010). Professor Byrd was the co-editor with Beverly Guy-Sheftall of Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality (Indiana University Press, 2001). He was also co-editor of I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings by Audre Lorde (Oxford University Press, 2009) with Johnnetta B. Cole and Beverly Guy Sheftall. With Henry Louis Gates Jr., he was the coeditor of the Norton Anthology of African American Poetry; and co-editor of the Norton Edition of Caneby Jean Toomer (W.W.W. Norton, 2011). His essays, reviews, and editorials were published in The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, African American Review, Callaloo, MELUS, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, and CNN.com.
Professor Byrd was the founding co-chair of the Alice Walker Literary Society with Beverly Guy Sheftall of Spelman College. His several awards and fellowships included the Thomas Jefferson Award from Emory University; the Governor’s Award in the Humanities; the Dick Bathrick Activist Award from Men Stopping Violence of Atlanta, GA; Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship at Harvard University, the Dorothy Danforth Compton Fellowship at Yale University, and Visiting Scholar at the Bellagio Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy. Professor Byrd was a consultant to the United Negro College Fund/Andrew W. Mellon Programs.
Professor Byrd, an Emory professor for two decades, died in Atlanta on October 21, 2011 at Emory University Hospital after a long-running fight with cancer. He was 58.