Document Type

Open Access Article

Author Biography

Jacinta R. Saffold is the endowed chair in Africana Studies at the University of New Orleans and a digital archivist. She researches twentieth- and twenty-first-century African American literature, hip hop studies, and the digital humanities.

Kinohi Nishikawa is an associate professor of English and African American Studies at Princeton University. He is the author of Street Players: Black Pulp Fiction and the Making of a Literary Underground (2018) and other studies of Black print and popular culture.


On October 27, 2021, the Bibliographical Society of America (BSA) sponsored the first in a series of virtual interviews about the Essence Book Project. Founded by Jacinta R. Saffold, the BSA’s inaugural Dorothy Porter Wesley Fellow, the Essence Book Project is a database of the books that appeared on Essence magazine’s bestsellers’ list from 1994 to 2010. In talking about the project with Kinohi Nishikawa, Saffold highlights how Black best-selling books contribute new paths of inquiry to bibliographical scholarship and explains why it is important to archive contemporary Black print culture. Presented in this article is a modified version of the conversation.