Cameron Leader-Picone

Professor and Director of Graduate Studies / Graduate FacultyCameron Leader-Picone
Ph.D. in African and African-American Studies, 2009, Harvard University

Office: English/Counseling Services Bldg. 108C
Phone: (785) 532-6716

Field of interest:
Contemporary African American Literature, The African American Literary Tradition, Postmodern Literature, African American Popular Culture, 20th Century American Literature, Popular Fiction.

My research and teaching focuses on contemporary African American literature and culture. I received my Ph.D. in African and African American Studies from Harvard University. I have been a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow at the W. E. B Du Bois Center for the Study of Afro-American Research (now the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research) at Harvard University. My research has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

My first book, Black and More Than Black: African American Fiction in the Post Era (University Press of Mississippi, 2019), analyzes twenty-first century African American fiction through the proliferation of post categories that arose in the new millennium. These post categories—post-black, post-racialism, post-Soul—articulate a shift away from the racial aesthetics associated with the Black Arts Movement and argue for the individual agency of Black artists over the meaning of racial identity in their work. Analyzing key works by Colson Whitehead, Alice Randall, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Paul Beatty, Jesmyn Ward, and Kiese Laymon, this book argues that twenty-first century African American fiction highlights the push and pull between claims of post-civil rights progress and the recognition of the entrenchment of structural racism. The book contextualizes this shift through the rise of, and presidency of, Barack Obama and the revision of Du Boisian double consciousness. It examines Obama through an analysis of the discourse surrounding his rise, Obama’s own writings, and his appearance as a character. The book concludes that while the claims of progress associated with Barack Obama’s presidency and the post era categories to which it was connected were overly optimistic, they represent a major shift towards an individualistic conception of racial identity that that continues to resist claims of responsibility imposed on Black artists.

I am currently working on a book analyzing the writing of first and second generation immigrants from Africa to the United States (under contract at Northwestern University Press), and another project focusing on the relationship between the representation of educational institutions in the post-Brown v. Board period and the construction of Black identity.

My published work includes “Post-black Stories: Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor and Racial Individualism” Contemporary Literature 56.3 (2015) and “An Unhyphenated Man: Alice Randall’s Rebel Yell and the Literary Age of Obama” MELUS 42.1 (2017). My essay “Pilgrims in an Unholy Land: The Challenge of African American Leadership in Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks and Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle” was published in the volume Post-Soul Satire: Black Identity After Civil Rights, edited by Derek Maus and James J. Donahue (University Press of Mississippi, 2014). In addition, my essay “Whispering Racism in a Post-Racial World: Slavery and Postblackness in Paul Beatty’s The Sellout” appears in the forthcoming Slavery and the Post-Black Imagination, edited by Bertram Ashe and Ilka Saal.