Volume 2 Call

Spark 2020 Call: Black Studies, Activism & Emergence

Submission Deadline for May 2020 Volume: 30 December 2019

Call for submissions

In the United States, 1969 is often cited as a turning point for cultural, political, and social movements: from LGBTQIA+ issues and activisms proudly blossoming around the country in the wake of the Stonewall Riots; to changes in music, and attitudes toward love and drugs in youth culture, culminating in Woodstock; to the shifts from resisting Jim Crow, to forging the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Freedom Struggle, to the emergence of the Black Power Revolution. Through these movements, the marginalized demanded attention, and their attendant counternarratives came into public consciousness. By the end of the 1960s, higher education institutions in the United States witnessed and aided the development of Black studies programs, offering undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to contribute to a new body of scholarship and learning. However, these programs did not develop without struggle.

At San Francisco State College in November 1968, Black students staged a five-month strike in which they “sought to expose the racism and authoritarianism found on campus and demanded increased student of color representation” as well as demanding the development of a Black studies department. The college would become the home of the first Black studies program in the US in March 1969, and the actions by thousands of SF State students would inspire many other Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, and even white students to respond similarly on their campuses through multiracial struggles for recognition and equality. To develop Black studies departments and programs, universities began hiring more Black faculty to teach the new curriculum and to address the growing “Negro Problem” on college campuses, one problem which remains today.

Our Spark 2020 volume aims to honor and celebrate 50 years of establishing Black studies as an academic discipline that has made space for advocacy, inclusion, and revolutionary thought. Spark aims to amplify how, historically, establishing and sustaining Black studies has been made possible through activism. This call is issued in the midst of continued calls for asserting that Black Lives Matter–whether during the ongoing struggle for justice after racist murders by police officers; the continuous struggles for housing and environmental justice in locations like Flint, MI, and New Orleans, LA; the rampant educational inequities in K-12 and higher education; or the tragic murders of transgender women. At the same time, this call joins the work of numerous rhetoric, writing, and literacy studies scholars whose writing and activism has been asserting the vital importance of celebrating Black experiences throughout their careers.

Certainly, Black studies has figured into the disciplinary formation of composition studies. Earlier scholarship on Students’ Right to Their Own Language and the current “anti-racist” conversations are led by Black women scholars: Jacqueline Jones Royster, Carmen Kynard, Shirley Wilson Logan, Staci Perryman-Clark, Rhea Lathan, Elaine Richardson, and Gwendolyn Pough, for example. This call, then, is as much an exploration of Black studies as it is about Black women’s studies, Black men’s studies, Black labor studies, and Black queer studies. We hope to extend research and critical thought that explores how Black studies is not just ethnic studies, but adjacent to and influential in all fields of study that address underrepresented voices. Ultimately, this volume seeks submissions that update 50 years of Black studies: We did this through activism and protest. Where are we now? And where do we go next by learning from our activist origins?

As with previous Spark calls, we ask for a variety of scholarly and socially engaged texts. The 2020 volume of Spark continues our mission to reflect on the ways that individual, collective, and organizational action are integral to keeping Black studies, and the concerns of scholars engaging in work directly adjacent to Black studies, in the forefront of writing, rhetoric, and literacy studies. Furthermore, the volume asks contributors to explore how Black studies and its scholars are supported by individual, collective, and organizational resistance. Contributions may examine a variety of topics, including but not limited to the following questions:


  • How did the emergence of Black studies programs inform other higher education programs and curricula related to writing, rhetoric, and literacy studies?
  • What types of resistance and activism were necessary to establish and sustain Black studies in 1969 and now?
  • How did the development of Black studies at predominantly white institutions influence the status of faculty at those universities?


  • What disruptions are necessary to bring Black studies to writing, rhetoric, literacy, and technical communication studies?
  • How have activism and protest informed your curriculum, program, teaching, or your scholarship for integrating Black studies into writing, rhetoric, and literacy studies?
  • What barriers remain to integrating Black studies into writing, rhetoric, and literacy studies?
  • What are the relationships between Black studies and Latinx/Chicano studies, Indigenous studies, Asian studies, queer studies, or cultural rhetorics?


  • What is the future of Black studies?
  • How will Black studies ever become central to rhetoric, writing, and literacy studies?
  • How will Black studies work, scholarship, and activism inform the lives of BBIPOC in the future?
  • How does the future allow teacher-scholar-activists to offer new considerations of Moten and Harvey’s undercommons and Black studies at our schools?

Submission types

We seek submissions from writers who represent all the embodied experiences and labor categories which inform the purposes of our field.

We invite also submissions from activist-scholars in all ranks of rhetoric & writing studies and adjacent areas of inquiry–from undergraduate and graduate students to non-tenure track, tenure track, and tenured faculty. In addition to the genres Spark always considers (columns, scene reports, interviews, media and tool reviews), we call for submissions that fit into the following genres:


We invite 1,500-word retrospectives that revisit and critically engage the earliest Black studies scholarship (from 1969-1989) to emphasize their importance or to articulate and apply their ideas for our current contexts. Retrospectives should engage directly with a single text, scholar, or movement significant to the formation of Black studies as it stands in the current moment.

Submit your work

We invite submissions of alphabetic texts in Word .docx form to submit2spark@gmail.com. We also invite submissions that are “born digital,” that is to say work that involves multimodal composing and must be presented online, such as podcasts, videos, photo essays, or downloadable resources. Multimodal work can be submitted as a Google Drive link to the above address.

All work is anonymously peer-reviewed by two peers.

For more information or inquiries, contact the Co-Editors of this volume:
Sherri Craig (scraig@wcupa.edu)
Karrieann Soto Vega (ksotovega@uky.edu)