Founded in 1975, Obsidian supports—through publication and critical inquiry—the contemporary poetry, fiction, drama/performance, visual and media art of Africans globally. Since its inception, Obsidian has featured a range of acclaimed writers and critics including Elizabeth Alexander, Houston A. Baker, Abena John Brown, Octavia Butler, Wanda Coleman, Thadious Davis, Melvin Dixon, Gerald Early, C.S. Giscombe, Terrance Hayes, Essex Hemphill, Gayl Jones, Yusef Komunyakaa, Brenda Marie Osbey, Claudia Rankine, Jerry Ward, and Gloria Wade Gayles among others. Recognized by the National Endowment of the Arts as one of the premier journals dedicated to Africa and African Diaspora Literatures, Obsidian is published biannually in print and online.
Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora is a peer-reviewed journal published by the Publications Unit, Department of English, Illinois State University, a body corporate and politic of the State of Illinois and a 501(c)(3) recognized organization.
In 1975 Alvin Aubert founded Obsidian at SUNY (Fredonia) under the name Obsidian: Black Literature in Review. Initially funded by Aubert and the support of individual contributors, over the following decades Obsidian would be published and supported by the resources of several universities. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, the journal was published by Wayne State University in Detroit under the name Obsidian II: Black Literature in Review. In 1985, Gerald Barrax took Obsidian II to North Carolina State University. Whilst there, Afaa Michael Weaver helped to transform the journal from Obsidian II to Obsidian III: Literature in the African Diaspora. Other editors emeriti during Obsidian’s tenure at NCSU include Doris Laryea, Joyce Pettis, Thomas Lisk, and Sheila Smith McKoy. In the fall of 2014, current editor Duriel E. Harris initiated the successful transfer of Obsidian to the Publications Unit at Illinois State University.
With the publication of the spring 2015 issue dedicated to the work of Jeffery Renard Allen, Obsidian celebrated over 40 years of continuous publication and exhibited a new subtitle, Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora.