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Sara E. Johnson


Ph.D. (Stanford University)

Professor of Literature of the Americas

Office Hours

Co-Director of the Black Studies Project (BSP) 

American Council of Learned Societies Fellow, 2018-2019
University of Cambridge

Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award Winner, 2012

Affiliated Faculty in Black Diaspora and African American Studies
Affiliated Faculty in The Center for Iberian & Latin American Studies
Affiliated Faculty for Department of Ethnic Studies
Affiliated Faculty in Critical Gender Studies

UCSD Hellman Fellow

Sara Johnson received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Stanford University and her B.A. from Yale University in Comparative Literature and African American Studies. She has done extensive research abroad, living in Senegal, Cuba, Haiti and Martinique. Past fellowships include those from the Ford Foundation, the University of California President’s Postdoctoral Program, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Hellman Fund, the UC Consortium for Black Studies, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Bibliographical Society of America.

Her book The Fear of French Negroes: Transcolonial Collaboration in the Revolutionary Americas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012) is an inter-disciplinary study that explores how people responded to the collapse and reconsolidation of colonial life in the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1845). The book traces expressions of transcolonial black politics, both aesthetic and experiential, in places including Hispaniola, Louisiana, Jamaica, and Cuba. It was published by the University of California Press as part of the Modern Language initiative, a partnership between the Modern Language Association, the Mellon Foundation, and several university presses.

Her book Encyclopédie noire: The Making of Moreau de Saint-Méry’s Intellectual World (Omohundro Institute/UNC Press, 2023) documents the work of Moreau de Saint-Méry, a late eighteenth-century Caribbean intellectual. The book combines traditional academic chapters and experimental forms in its use of archival fragments and visual culture to tell the stories of the free people of color and enslaved women and men who enabled Moreau’s work.

Johnson is the co-editor of Kaiso! Writings By and About Katherine Dunham (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, Studies in Dance History Series, 2006) and Una ventana a Cuba y los Estudios cubanos (San Juan: Ediciones Callejon, Spring 2010). Kaiso! was named one of the top ten arts books of 2006.

Professor Johnson’s research and teaching areas include literature, theory and history of the Hispanophone, Francophone and Anglophone Caribbean and its diasporas; hemispheric American literature and cultural studies; the Age of Revolution in the extended Americas; and music and dance of the African Diaspora.

She has been a mentor for the McNair program and the Undergraduate Faculty Mentor program. She has also served on over forty-five doctoral committees and her former students have gone on to various postdoctoral fellowships and to tenure-track jobs at institutions including the University of Oregon, the University of North Carolina, California State University, the College of William and Mary, the University of New Orleans, Brown University, Brigham Young University, the University of Arizona, Tulane University, MiraCosta College, East Stroudsburg University, Texas A &M, Palomar Community College, Yale University, and Florida International University. Currently on the Council of the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture, she is the chair of the William and Mary Quarterly editorial board. She proudly hails from Baltimore City.

Selected Courses:

Comparative Caribbean Discourse
Transcolonial American Studies
Introduction to American Literature
La narrativa cubana
Comparative American Slavery in the Age of Revolution
Inter-American Prose
La isla que se repite
Slavery and the Literary Imagination
Revolutionary Art: Cuban Popular Culture Since 1959
The World of Jane Austen
Salsa Music: Style and Substance


Encyclopédie noire 

The Making of Moreau de Saint-Méry's Intellectual World 

Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press, 2023.

The Fear of French Negroes: Transcolonial Collaboration in the Revolutionary Americas. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.

Full text is available via institutional membership to jstor at

Awarded Honorable Mention for the 2013 William Sanders Scarborough Book Prize from the Modern Language Association
Una ventana a Cuba y los Estudios cubanos. Co-edited with Amalia Cabezas, Ivette Hernández-Torres and Rodrigo Lazo. San Juan: Ediciones Callejon, Spring 2010.
Kaiso! Writings By and About Katherine Dunham. Co-edited with VeVe Clark. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.


“He Was a Lion and He Would Destroy Much”: A Speculative School of Revolutionary Politics." Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism 58 (March 2019): 195-207.

“Your Mother Gave Birth to a Pig”: Power, Abuse, and Planter Linguistics in Baudry des Lozière’s  Vocabulaire Congo."  Early American Studies   (Winter 2018): 7-40.

Winner of the John M. Murrin Prize, awarded annually to the best essay published in   Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal and the 2019 best article prize from the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) .

“Moreau de Saint-Méry: Itinerant Bibliophile.” Library and Information History Volume 31. 3 (2015): 171-197.

“Never Put your Feet where your Eyes Cain't See: A Meditation on Deepness” in south: a scholarly journal.” Vol 47. 1 (Fall 2015): 52-62. 

"Page to Praxis: Bringing Diaspora Literacy to Life." Theatre Survey Volume 50.1 (May 2009): 19-22.

"'You Should Give them Blacks to Eat" Cuban Bloodhounds and the Waging of an Inter-American War of Torture and Terror."  American Quarterly  Vol. 61.1 (March 2009): 65-92. Winner of the Constance M. Rourke Prize given by the American Studies Association annually to the best article published in American Quarterly.

"Cinquillo Consciousness: The Formation of a Pan-Caribbean Musical Aesthetic." Music, Writing and Caribbean Unity. Ed. Tim Reiss. Trenton:  Africa World Press (2005): 35-58.

"The Integration of Hispaniola: A Reappraisal of Haitian-Dominican Relations in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries." Journal of Haitian Studies Vol. 8 No. 2 (Fall 2002): 4-29.

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