Toni Morrison Senior Fellow

Philathia Bolton, an Associate Professor of English at The University of Akron in Ohio, is inaugurating the Toni Morrison Senior Fellowship as its first recipient. She also serves on advisory committees for the Pan-African Studies Program and the Women's Studies Program, and is the English Department's honors advisor. Her research interests include 20th-century African-American literature, the U.S. civil rights movement, and critical race studies.

Bolton has lectured on subjects in these fields, locally, and has presented her research at national and international conferences, namely at the American Studies Association and the College Language Association conferences. In 2019, she participated in a thematic residence program for writers at Faberllull in Spain. There she collaborated with scholars from various parts of the world on an edited collection of essays that examines the continued significance of gender disparities. Bolton’s essay looks at the consequential, historical significance of colorism in the U.S. from a literary perspective, taking as primary texts of consideration Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987) and James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man (1912). Her forthcoming chapter on a volume devoted to Zora Neale Hurston makes an argument for how authors such as James Baldwin and Toni Morrison can be read in a Hurstonian tradition when considering both their vernacular, and cultural dispositions for writing.  While at the Africa Institute, Bolton will continue her research and writing on Morrison by revisiting her work on the novelist that connects the metaphoric significance of Macon Dead from Song of Solomon to certain novels by Black women writers of the 1970s and 1980s.

Bolton is a resident of Toni Morrison’s home state. She has involved herself in the community as an educator beyond her traditional classroom and as a supporter of the Arts, namely, teaching for the Upward Bound Program, presenting at book clubs for retirees, and recently serving as a board member of city and state-wide Arts organizations. Bolton is an alumna of Spelman College, where she graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in English and with membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Her master’s and doctor of philosophy degrees are in American Studies from Purdue University-West Lafayette.