Valerie Prince

Valerie Prince

Associate Professor

 Maccabbee Bldg. 11th Floor
5057 Woodward Ave


Valerie Prince


African American Studies

 Valerie Sweeney (Efua) Prince’s first monograph, Burnin’ Down the House: Home in African American Literature published by Columbia University Press in 2005, was recognized by Academia as a university press bestseller in April of that year. Her second monograph, Daughter’s Exchange, is a hybrid text exploring the African American woman’s encounter with the intellectual marketplace.

Prince’s work-in-progress includes Missing, the story of three brothers whose mother goes missing. They fear that it’s too risky to let anyone know of her disappearance so they decide to fend for themselves until, they hope, she returns. Missing is a YA illustra-novella, a term coined by author G. P. Taylor for a genre that combines traditional text and art in the sense of both illustrations and graphic novels.

She received her PhD from the University of Michigan in English Language and Literature. Prince has been a fellow at Harvard University’s W. E. B. Du Bois Institute, a visiting scholar at the University of Virginia’s Carter G. Woodson Institute, and the Avalon Professor of Humanities at Hampton University. Immediately prior to joining the faculty of Wayne State University as an Associate Professor of African American Studies, Prince served as an Associate Professor of English and Black Studies and as the co-director of Black Studies at Allegheny College.


Research interest(s)/area of expertise

 20th - 21st century African American literature; home in African American literature; African American women; metaphor


Prince’s current research is titled Washboard. Written in lyrical prose, Washboard tells a compelling story about the convergence between unpaid and underpaid labor and industry; of housework and industrial development; and of generations of African American women whose domestic service is transformed into a labor of love. It’s a story inextricably linked with the violence of the Jim Crow South, the opening of the workforce to women, and the expansion of the middle class. It’s the story of what it means for African American women to do laundry.

This book-length project was spawned from a shorter piece called Waterbearer, a work of lyrical prose that gathers fragments like a collage to represent an impression of what it means for African America women to do laundry. Working in collaboration with Dr. Beth Watkins of Allegheny College, Waterbearer has been staged as a dramatic reading. The initial performance generated two encore performances, one hosted by the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary by a group of concerned citizens interested in discussing water infrastructure in Pittsburgh. Waterbearer will be performed again in New Orleans in January 2019.


PhD in English Language and Literature, University of Michigan; MA in English Language and Literature, University of Michigan; BA in English, Hampton University

Selected publications

 Burnin’ Down the House: Home in African American Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

“Keep on Moving Don’t Stop: Invisible Man” in Bloom’s Critical Views: Ralph Ellison, second edition. Edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2010.

Daughter’s Exchange: a vernacular performance, Marlboro, NJ: Alternative Book Press, 2018.

Currently teaching

 AFS 1010 Introduction to African American Studies

AFS 2010 African American Culture: Historical and Aesthetic Roots