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Dr. Janis Alene Mayes is a leading American author, literary critic,literary translator and professor in Africana literature. She has made literary contributions in French- and English-language literature in the African Diaspora. Her specialties are in French translation literary practices. She has translated ground-breaking anthologies and books in francophone literatures. Her translation of A Rain of Words is the first comprehensive anthology of francophone poetry and includes work from 47 authors not well known outside of francophone literature. She is also the pioneer and director of the first American study abroad program that examines the historical connections between African Americans and "Black Paris", entitled Paris Noir. The Syracuse University program has been influential in shaping Africana-focused cultural programs at leading museums in Paris such as the Louvre. This original specialized program has also gained notoriety by attracting students from universities across the USA including Spelman, Agnes Scott, and George Washington University and Hampton University. It has brought students to Paris to meet in scholarship with world-renowned artists whp are connected to the intellectual, artistic, and historical Black French experience, such as Nina Simone, Archie Shepp, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Sonia Sanchez and Toni Morrison. She was a board member of the Toni Morrison Society. In 2004, she participated in public conversations with Toni Morrison in Paris at the Theatre de la Madeleine after the unveiling of a bench commemorating the end of slavery in France. She has also organized cultural literary conferences, including an event with Discover Paris! that celebrated the literary contribution of Toni Morrison to the African diaspora.
Mayes gained her undergraduate degree in French literature at Fisk University. She was also a Fulbright Scholar. She had additional study as a scholar at the University of Paris-Sorbonne. In the 1980s she moved to Syracuse, New York, where she began teaching at Syracuse University in the Department of African American Studies; she is currently a professor there. She teaches in the Department of African American Studies at Syracuse University.
- Taking the Blues Back Home/Ramener le blues chez soi, Présence Africaine (translation)- 2010
- A Rain of Words: A Bilingual Anthology of Women's Poetry in Francophone Africa, Irène Assiba d'Almeida (translation) – 2009
- The Blind Kingdom, Véronique Tadjo (translation) - 2008
- Mapping Intersections: African Literature and Africa's Development (with Anne Adams) – 1998
- "Of Dreams Deferred, Dead or Alive: African Perspectives on African-American Writers",
- The City Where No One Dies, Dadié, Bernard (translation; Washington, DC: Three Continents) - 1986
- African Literature and Africa's Development (AWP) (with Anne Adams)
Achievements, Honors, Awards
- President, African Literature Association - 2003
- Fulbright Scholar
- Ebony Magazine, December 1999.
- Ebony Magazine, February 1999.
- Gerard, Albert, European-language writing in sub-Saharan Africa, Volume 2, p. 1017.
- https://web.archive.org/web/20110905154630/http://www.upress.virginia.edu/books/d%27almeida.HTM. Archived from the original on September 5, 2011. Retrieved October 28, 2011. Missing or empty
- Vickers, Robert J. "Noir Paris; Study abroad program explores historical, cultural, intellectual connections between African Americans and the 'City of Lights'." Black Issues in Higher Education, 20, no. 3 (March 27, 2003): 18. http://www.proquest.com/ and also on http://diversepodium.com/article/2842/
- Courtney Traub, "American Author Toni Morrison Honored in Paris, Commemorates End of Slavery", About.com Guide, November 4, 2010.
- "Toni Morrison Society Discovers Paris!" November 9, 2010.
- Syracuse University, College of Arts & Sciences Faculty Directory.
- The International Journal of African Historical Studies. New York: 1998. Vol. 31, Iss. 3; p. 686.
- African Writing Online. Interview: Véronique Tadjo, A Conversation with Janis Mayes.