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Brenda F Berrian - Smile_Small.jpg

BRENDA F. BERRIAN is a nomad. When she, at age 16, graduated from high school, she had already lived in New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Texas and the Republic of the Congo. And the answer is: No, she was not an army brat. Instead, she is the daughter of the late Albert H. Berrian, Sr. who had been a university professor and administrator. Since the apple does not fall far from the tree, she followed in her father’s footsteps by becoming a university professor and administrator. She is now Professor Emerita of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh where she taught literature of the Africana diaspora and film.  Her research interests are Black Diaspora women writers, migration, transnational cultural differences, African and Caribbean film and French Caribbean popular music and lyrics.

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Berrian studied at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), where she completed a B.S. and a M.A. in French. She received her doctorat du 3e cycle in North American Studies from the l’Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris III. Besides teaching at the University of Pittsburgh, she was an Assistant Professor of English at l’Université Nationale du Gabon (now l’Université d’Omar Bongo) in Gabon, Central Africa. Afterwards, she held Visiting Professorships at the Feire Universität de Berlin in Germany, the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and the University of Fort Hare in South Africa. She also taught during the Spring 2003 voyage of the Semester at Sea study abroad program for the University of Pittsburgh. For over 80 days, the ship traveled to nine countries on four continents (North America, South America, Asia and Africa) with 650 students from the United States and Canada.


Berrian is the recipient of many fellowships and awards, among them the Social Science Research Council Grant for Nigeria, Kenya and  Zambia; Southern Fellowship Fund for post-doctoral studies at Howard University; Fulbright Group Study Abroad and Research Project Award for Guyana, South America;  Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Grant; Provost Development Grant; Caribbean 2000 Rockefeller Resident Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Puerto Rico; Hewlett Grant; Summer National Endowment for the Humanities Grant for Senegal; and Rockefeller Foundation’s Scholarly Residency in Bellagio, Italy. In February 2002, as a scholar for the U.S. Department of State in West Africa and Europe, Berrian was the keynote speaker for the first African American Studies Interdisciplinary Conference at Bogazici University in Istanbul Turkey. In 2005, she was the recipient of the Zouk Award at the First Zouk Festival in Guadeloupe, French Caribbean.

Berrian’s publications include Awakening Spaces: French Caribbean Popular Music, Culture and Songs (U of Chicago Press, 2000). It is the first book in English about popular music of the twentieth century from Martinique and Guadeloupe and has been consulted by ethnomusicologists around the world. Her Bibliography of African Women Writers and Journalists (Three Continents Press, 1985) and Bibliography of Caribbean Women Writers (Three Continents Press, 1989) have been standard references for research on women writers from the two regions. Africa: Roots and Branches (Institute for Services to Education, 1978), cowritten with her father, was required reading for the Summer 1978 and 1979 National Endowment of the Humanities Institute at Hampton Institute. Race, Identity, and Privilege from the US to the Congo, her memoir in the Critical Africana Studies Series, will be released by Lexington Books, a division of Rowman & Littlefield on February 15, 2021. The hardcover edition in the USA can be pre-ordered on;;  or Critical-Africana-Studies-Race-Identity-and-Privilege-from-the-US-to-the-Congo-Hardcover/529965454. For the foreign market, it can be pre-ordered on,,,,, and The paperback edition is scheduled for 2022. Essays have been published in peer reviewed journals and edited volumes.

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