Lena Hill Provost and Professor of English and Africana Studies

Lena Hill

Washington Hall

Lena Hill began serving as Provost in July 2021 after serving as Dean of the College at W&L since 2018. She received her bachelor’s from Howard University and her Ph.D. from Yale University, and she completed postdoctoral work at Duke University.

Lena’s scholarship and teaching focus on African American literature and visual culture, and she is known internationally as a scholar of Ralph Ellison. In addition to publishing numerous articles and essays, she has published three books. She authored Visualizing Blackness and the Creation of the African American Literary Tradition (Cambridge, 2014), co-edited Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa during the Long Civil Rights Era (University of Iowa Press, 2016) and co-authored Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: A Reference Guide (Greenwood, 2008). She serves on several boards including the National Humanities Alliance Board and the Modernist Studies Editorial Board.

At W&L, Lena has prioritized the support and growth of interdisciplinary programs, the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, and faculty mentoring and development. She is a passionate advocate for the liberal arts curriculum, and as the chief academic officer, she is focused on delivering an academic experience to students that prepares them to flourish after graduating from W&L.


Ph.D., Yale University, 2005

B. A. in English, summa cum laude, Howard University, 1997


Nineteenth and twentieth century African American literature; visual culture; U.S. literature and drama

Selected Publications


African American Literature In Transition, 1750-2015 series, 1940s Volume, co-edited with Michael D. Hill, with introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, forthcoming)

Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa during the Long Civil Rights Era, co-edited with Michael D. Hill, with introduction and essay (University of Iowa Press, 2016). 230 pp. *** [2017 Benjamin F. Shambaugh Award Honorable Mention]

Visualizing Blackness and the Creation of the African American Literary Tradition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014). 275 pp. ***

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: A Reference Guide, co-authored with Michael D. Hill (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2008). 191 pp. ***



“Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man,” A Companion to World Literature. Ed. Ken Seigneurie (West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell): 18 pages, forthcoming 2018.

“Laughing in the Gallery: Melvin Tolson’s Refusal to Hush,” Humor in Modern American Poetry. Ed. Rachel Trousdale (New York: Bloomsbury, 2018): 77-96.

“The Politics of Fatherhood in Three Days Before the Shooting….,” The New Territory: Ralph Ellison and the 21st Century. Eds. Marc Connor and Lucas Morel (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2016): 142-166.

“A New Stage of Laughter for Zora Neale Hurston and Theodore Browne: Lysistrata and the Negro Units of the Federal Theater Project.” The Oxford Handbook of Greek Drama in the Americas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015): 286-300.

“Performing Political Responsibility: Ralph and Fanny Ellison’s Appeal to Visual Arts,” American Studies 54:3 (2015): 83-100.

“Novels.” African American Studies Center, Ed. Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t356/e0005 (2012)

“The Visual Art of Invisible Man: Ellison’s Portrait of Blackness,” American Literature 81:4 (2009): 775-803.



Review of Cherene Sherrard-Johnson, Dorothy West’s Paradise (2013) in American Literary History, Series II (April 2015).

Review of Kwame Anthony Appiah, Lines of Descent: W. E. B. Du Bois and Emergence of Identity in Books & Culture (September/October 2014): 30-31.

Review of Adam Bradley, Ralph Ellison in Progress (Yale 2010) in African American Review 44:3 (2012): 532-534.


Awards and Honors

Benjamin F. Shambaugh Award, Honorable Mention (2017) [State Historical Society of Iowa Prize Recognizing Most Significant Book Published on Iowa History]

BTAA Academic Leadership Program Fellow (2016-2017)

Obermann Fellow-in-Residence (Spring 2015)

Cmiel Research Semester Participant, Obermann Center (2012)

James N. Murray Faculty Award (2011) [Teaching Award Given to One Untenured Faculty Member at UI]

Geneva Lecture Committee Faith & Learning Award (2010) [Service Award]

Women of Color in Popular Culture Junior Faculty Publication Workshop, UI CESA (2008)

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship, Mellon Foundation (2004-2006)

Graduate Prize Fellowship, Yale University (1998-2002)

Phi Beta Kappa, Howard University (1996)