CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — University of North Carolina graduate and English professor Randall Kenan has died.
The 57-year-old Black educator was found dead in Hillsboro, N.C. at his home on Aug. 29, The Associated Press reported.
Kenan had spent his career exploring the experiences of being Black and gay in the American South. A collection of short stories, “Let the Dead Bury Their Dead,” was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, a recipient of a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction, as well as a New York Times Notable Book designee.
In addition to his other writings, he penned a young adult biography of author James Baldwin, the AP added.
He had recently written an open, reflective letter on his experience as a Black student at the university in the 1980s, looking at the more recent removal of Confederate statutes across the southern landscape.
WRAL reported that Terry Rhodes, dean of UNC’s College of Arts & Sciences said, “He was one of the leading lights at Carolina. He was a Tar Heel alumnus, a native North Carolinian who loved writing about his roots, beloved by his students, a mentor to younger writers and a master craftsman and storyteller. We will miss him greatly.”
His career took him from work on the editorial staff of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. to teaching at Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia University, Vassar College, Duke University and UNC as well as serving as a visiting professor at the University of Mississippi.
He was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Sherwood Anderson Award, the John Dos Passos Award, and was the 1997 Rome Prize winner from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was awarded the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2005.
He left an unfinished book, “There’s a Man Going ‘Round Taking Names,” at his death.