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"Black women, contrary to anything else you may have heard or may think, are at the center of their world." 

  — Nellie Y. McKay


Scholar. Teacher. Leader. Coach.

About Me

Shanna Greene Benjamin is a biographer and scholar who studies the literature, lives, and archives of Black women. She has published on African American literature and Black women's intellectual history in African American Review, MELUS, and PMLA, Studies in American Fiction. She is a coach who helps graduate students and faculty members write what only they can; she is a consultant who helps colleges and universities engage with inclusivity as a practice. 


Her book, Half in Shadow, a biography of Norton Anthology of African American Literature co-editor Nellie Y. McKay, is forthcoming from the University of North Carolina Press.


She lives with her family in Charlotte, North Carolina.  


Half in Shadow: 

The Life and Legacy


Nellie Y. McKay  

aVAILABLE April 2021

Nellie Y. McKay (1930–2006) was a pivotal figure in contemporary American letters. The author of several books, McKay is best known for coediting the canon-making Norton Anthology of African American Literature with Henry Louis Gates Jr., which helped secure a place for the scholarly study of Black writing that had been ignored by white academia.


However, there is more to McKay’s life and legacy than her literary scholarship. After her passing, new details about McKay’s life emerged, surprising everyone who knew her. Why did McKay choose to hide so many details of her past? Using extensive archives, McKay's letters, and her own personal narrative, Shanna Greene Benjamin brings together McKay’s private life and public work to expand how we think about Black literary history and the place of Black women in American culture.



Half in Shadow Book Talk

Harvard University // Hutchins Center for African & African American Research 

September 21st |4:00 pm ET

Virtual (Register Here)

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