Established in 1974 by graduate students in the MFA Program in Creative Writing, Black Warrior Review is named for the river that borders the campus of The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The city, the river, and the magazine all derive their names from the 16th-century Indigenous leader Tuskaloosa (also spelled “Tushkalusa”), whose name comes from two words of Creek or Choctaw origin—tasca, meaning “warriors,” and lusa, meaning “black.” In 1540, Tuskaloosa battled the Spanish colonizer Hernando de Soto at Mabila, a fortified settlement perhaps in the vicinity of present-day Selma. Tuskaloosa was likely among the thousands who perished in the resistance effort, which is thought to have stopped the advance of de Soto’s campaign.
BWR publishes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comics, and art twice a year. Contributors include Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners alongside emerging writers.
Below is our mission statement, which we include so that we can hold ourselves accountable and also so that you can hold us accountable. See a way we can do better? Please get in touch.
Black Warrior Review centers and supports human beings and aesthetics historically underrepresented in literary publishing.
While an annual turnover in editors perpetually renews our tastes, we tend to lean toward work that is “weird,” “challenging,” “unconventional,” and “genre-nonconforming.” While these descriptors might seem nebulous, we see experimentation as a process rather than a product, meaning we cannot always know the result until we see it. BWR work surprises us and challenges normative sense-making impulses. We honor risk over perfection, messy and bold over neat and polished. We often identify suitable material when we suspect it might not find a home elsewhere in the mainstream literary marketplace. While experimental journals currently thrive online, we consider it vital also to publish boundary-pushing work in print and pay its makers more than token sums.
We recognize that such experimental literature very often comes from the margins and that there are human beings attached to the work we publish. We strive to remove barriers to our pages (financial and otherwise) and to elevate the work of unpublished and under-published writers (often known as “emerging” writers) alongside more established ones, writers working beyond academia and MFA programs, and especially people belonging to groups historically and systematically shut out of literary spaces. Writing by Black and Indigenous writers, writers of color, queer and trans writers, writers with disabilities, immigrant writers, and femme writers is welcome, wanted, and actively sought. We stand in opposition to racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, sexism, fatphobia, ableism, ageism, and all other such prejudices and their intersections. Internally, we take identity into serious account in our decisions and practice editorial affirmative action. It is more important for our organization to support living people than to create content for consumption. We remain realistic about our readership, which is modest, and recognize our contributors as our primary constituency. They receive support not only with payment and publication of their work but also through our platform, as we boost their accomplishments and support their needs beyond BWR.
Lastly, it matters greatly to us that a journal like ours exists in the South in particular.
Black Warrior Review stands with Black Lives Matter. We encourage you to visit https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/ in order to access BLM-endorsed strategies for enacting change locally, nationally, and globally.
In 2019, BWR was awarded a Whiting Literary Magazine Prize and was that year’s Print Development Grantee. The judges’ citation read, “Full of elegance and grit, fluidity and resolve, Black Warrior Review is a singular beacon for adventurous writing that shines forth from Alabama. This journal brings together what is gorgeous and necessary in literature today, treating each piece it publishes as an act of optimistic revolution. Black Warrior Review dissolves convention and leaves possibility in its place.”
Work appearing in BWR has been reprinted in the Pushcart Prize series, Best American Short Stories, Best American Poetry, PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize, New Stories from the South, the Wigleaf Top 50, and other anthologies. BWR‘s past contributors have included Gary Soto, Barry Hannah, Edward Hirsch, William Stafford, Patricia Eakins, Alan Cheuse, C.D. Wright, Charles Simic, Diane Ackerman, James Tate, Stephen Dunn, W.S. Merwin, Annie Dillard, Yusef Komunyakaa, Mark Costello, Lee Upton, Jane Hirshfield, Tess Gallagher, Sydney Lea, William Kittredge, Charles Baxter, John Irving, Margaret Atwood, Rainer Maria Rilke, Billy Collins, Tony Hoagland, Rick Bass, Mary Ruefle, Jenny Offill, John Ashbery, Joy Williams, Rita Dove, Richard Wilbur, Mark Levine, Bob Hicok, Elizabeth Powell, Tony D’Souza, Alice Notley, Robyn Schiff, Anthony Doerr, Sherrie Flick, Anne Carson, Terrance Hayes, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Leslie Jamison, Lynne Tillman, Deb Olin Unferth, Jennifer Cheng, Lee Klein, Mary Jo Bang, Sabrina Orah Mark, Aimee Bender, Patricia Lockwood, Blake Butler, Paul Lisicky, Joshua Cohen, Roxane Gay, Joyelle McSweeney, Lucy Corin, Kristen Radtke, Vi Khi Nao, Sally Wen Mao, Sara June Woods, Elissa Washuta, sam sax, C Pam Zhang, Kaveh Akbar, Cathy Ulrich, Paul Tran, and Tyrese Coleman, among many others.
Black Warrior Review is indexed in Humanities International Complete, the Book Reviews Index, and the MLA International Bibliography. ISSN: 0193-6301.
No portion of Black Warrior Review or its website may be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 by Black Warrior Review.