Manuel Zapata Olivella (1920-2004) was known throughout Latin America as the “Dean of Black Literature” and is considered one of the 20th century’s most important Afro-Hispanic narrators. He was also a noted Colombian anthropologist, folklorist, physician, playwright and novelist; his work to document and preserve the history and culture of Afro-Colombia through oral history, television, radio, and literature is legendary. Vanderbilt’s Special Collections houses his personal papers that consist of over one hundred fifty boxes of manuscripts, correspondence, publications, tapes, interviews, scrapbooks, and photographs. Gretchen and Fernanda Bretones Lane worked together to select correspondence in the collection which provided a unique window on the history and society of Colombia and on people of African descent in the Americas as a whole. Essays by Gretchen Selcke focused on the writing of Changó and Zapata Olivella’s literary relationships. Fernanda Bretones Lane discussed Afro-Colombian identity and the anthropologist’s role in promoting black culture through the Congresses of Black Culture in the Americas.
is a PhD candidate in Spanish at Vanderbilt University, completing her doctorate on “Isolation on and off the Island: The Politics of Displacement in Contemporary Spanish Caribbean Fiction.” She was the recipient of the E. Inman Fox Graduate Teaching Award, the Enhancing Graduate Education Grant (2009-2011) and was a graduate scholar summer fellow at the Center for the Americas at Vanderbilt. She graduated summa cum laude from Bowdoin College with a B.A. in Spanish and history. Ms. Selcke has served on the editorial board of the Afro-Hispanic Review since 2006 and edited a special issue honoring Zapata Olivella while she was serving as assistant editor on the journal.
This project was developed through the collaborate efforts of two fellows. Meet Fernanda Bretones Lane.