Cheryl Wall

Cheryl A. Wall (October 29, 1948 – April 4, 2020)[1] was a literary critic and professor of English at Rutgers University. One of the first black women to head an English department at a major research university, she worked for diversity in the literary canon as well as in the classroom.[2] She specialized in black women's writing, particularly the Harlem Renaissance and Zora Neale Hurston.[3] She edited several volumes of Hurston's writings for the Library of America. She was also a section editor for The Norton Anthology of African American Literature and was on the editorial boards of American Literature, African American Review and Signs. An award-winning researcher and teacher, she was named the Board of Governors Zora Neale Hurston Professor in 2007.

Cheryl A. Wall
Cheryl Ann Wall

(1948-10-29)October 29, 1948
DiedApril 6, 2020(2020-04-06) (aged 71)
EducationHoward University; Harvard University
OccupationLiterary critic, academic

Wall had a lifelong commitment to African-American arts and culture and was the founding board chair of the Crossroads Theater Company, the first Black Theater in New Jersey, founded by two Rutgers graduates, Ricardo Khan and Lee Richardson in 1978.


Cheryl Ann Wall was born in Manhattan, New York, and was raised in Jamaica, Queens. Her father Rev. Monroe Wall was a pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Harlem, and her mother, Rennie Ray (née Strayhorn) Wall, was an English teacher in New York City public schools. Cheryl attended Rhodes Preparatory School in Manhattan, and studied piano under Margaret Bonds. She went on to earn a B.A. degree in English from Howard University and her Ph.D from Harvard University on a Ford Foundation scholarship.[3]

Wall began her association with Rutgers University teaching there in 1972, and she would become a founder of the Rutgers English Diversity Institute, to encourage greater diversity among graduate students, as a result of which all English majors were required to complete a course in African-American literature.[3]

Wall died of complications from an asthma attack, at her home in Highland Park, New Jersey, on April 4, 2020, aged 71.[3]

Selected publicationsEdit

  • Changing Our Own Words: Criticism, Theory and Writing by Black Women (ed., 1989)
  • Women of the Harlem Renaissance (1995)
  • "Sweat": Texts and Contexts (ed., 1997)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Casebook (ed., 2000)
  • Worrying the Line: Black Women Writers, Lineage and Literary Tradition (2005)
  • On Freedom and the Will to Adorn: The Art of the African American Essay (2019)


  1. ^ Lally, Robin (April 6, 2020), "Remembering Cheryl A. Wall, a Champion of Black Women Writers", Rutgers Today, Rutgers University.
  2. ^ Associated Press (April 22, 2020), "Literary scholar Cheryl A. Wall dies at age 71", The Washington Post.
  3. ^ a b c d Roberts, Sam (April 22, 2020), "Cheryl A. Wall, 71, Dies; Champion of Black Literary Women", The New York Times.

External linksEdit