Digital Humanities: Fellowships Open Book Program

Period of Performance

12/1/2022 - 5/31/2024

Funding Totals

$5,500.00 (approved)
$5,500.00 (awarded)

Open Access Edition of Half in Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Nellie Y. McKay by Shanna Greene Benjamin

FAIN: DR-290430-23

University of North Carolina Press, Inc. (Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2288)
Mark Simpson-Vos (Project Director: July 2022 to September 2023)

This project will publish the book Half in Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Nellie Y. McKay, written by NEH Fellow Shanna Greene Benjamin (Federal Award Identification Number FT-58636-11), in an electronic open access format under a Creative Commons license, making it available for free download and distribution. The author will be paid a royalty of at least $500 upon release of the open access ebook.

Associated Products

Single Publication (Open Access eBook or Collection)
Publication Type: Single Publication
Title: Half in Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Nellie Y. McKay
Year: 2021
ISBN: 9781469661896
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Author: Shanna Greene Benjamin
Abstract: 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? Shanna Greene Benjamin examines McKay’s path through the professoriate to learn about the strategies, sacrifices, and successes of contemporary Black women in the American academy. Benjamin shows that McKay’s secrecy was a necessary tactic that a Black, working-class woman had to employ to succeed in the white-dominated space of the American English department. Using extensive archives and personal correspondence, 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.
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Worldcat
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: OA PDF
URL 3:
URL 3 Description: Kindle
Type: Single author monograph


Legacy Award in Nonfiction: Memoir/Biography
Date: 1/1/2022
Organization: Hurston/Wright Foundation

William Sanders Scarborough Prize, Honorable Mention
Date: 1/1/2022
Organization: Modern Language Association