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Photo of Randall Kenan, taken by Sarah Boyd


1985, BA English, University of North Carolina


The Department of English & Comparative Literature is saddened beyond words to announce the passing of Professor Randall Kenan, an incredible friend, colleague, mentor, professor and literary giant.

Please visit Professor Kenan’s memorial webpage to learn about the amazing legacy that he left the world.

Randall Kenan’s first novel, A Visitation of Spirits, was published by Grove Press in 1989; and a collection of stories, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, was published in 1992 by Harcourt, Brace. That collection was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Fiction, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was among The New York TimesNotable Books of 1992. He is also the author of a young adult biography of James Baldwin (1993), and wrote the text for Norman Mauskoff ’ s book of photographs, A Time Not Here: The Mississippi Delta (1997). Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1999, and was nominated for the Southern Book Award. The Fire this Time , a work of nonfiction, was published in July 2007.

From 1985 to 1989 he worked on the editorial staff of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., publishers. In 1989 he began teaching writing at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University. He was the first William Blackburn Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Duke University in the fall of 1994, and the Edourd Morot-Sir Visiting Professor of Creating Writing at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1995. He was the John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, Oxford (1997-98), Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Memphis, and held the Lehman Brady Professorship at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. He has also taught urban literature at Vassar College.

He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Sherwood Anderson Award, the John Dos Passos Award, and was the 1997 Rome Prize winner from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was awarded the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2005. He is currently Chancellor of the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

To read more, visit my website


  • A Visitation of Spirits. (Grove Press, 1989).
  • Let the Dead Bury Their Dead. (Harcourt, 1992).
  • Walking on Water. (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999).
  • The Fire This Time. (Melville House, 2007).
  • The Cross of Redemption: The Uncollected Writings of James Baldwin, editor. (Pantheon, 2010).
  • The Carolina Table: North Carolina Writes on Food, editor (Eno Publishers, 2016).


  • Guggenheim
  • The Whiting Writer’s Award
  • North Carolina Governor’s Award
  • Sam Ragan Award

Courses Taught:

  • English 132, 132H (Intro to Creative Writing)
  • English 206 (Intermediate Creative Writing)
  • English 406 (Advanced Creative Writing)
  • English 693H/694H (Senior Honors Creative Writing)
  • English 208 (Food Writing)

Curriculum Vitae / Resume


Email   |   (919) 923-3675
Office: Greenlaw 313
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