Friday, July 3, 2015

In Memoriam: James A. Miller

Professor James A. Miller
in his English Department office
The English Department is mourning the loss of Professor Jim Miller, our colleague, teacher, mentor, and friend, who died on June 19, after a year-long battle with cancer.  Jim was a highly-respected scholar and beloved teacher in English, American Studies, and Africana Studies whose work focused on African American literary and cultural studies across the 20th and 21st centuries, often with a specific focus on the Washington, DC, area.

The Washington Post notes the passing of prominent Washington-area figures; that obituary can be accessed here.  The Post writes:

'Dr. Miller was born in Providence, R.I. He joined the GWU faculty in 1998 after having taught at the University of South Carolina and at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. At GWU he taught a course on “Black Culture in the Nation’s Capital.” He lectured often to D.C. public-school classes at the School Without Walls.
He was author of a 2009 book, “Remembering Scottsboro,” about the 1931 trial and conviction of nine black youths accused of raping two white women in Scottsboro, Ala. He had written chapters in books about Washington and had reviewed contemporary African American literature in The Washington Post."
Professor Miller's 2011 interview
with BookTV GWU
In 2011, Jim gave a BookTV GWU interview on Remembering Scottsboro.  You can view this interview here.

Jim received his A.B. in English from Brown in 1966 and his Ph.D. in English from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1976, with a dissertation on “The Struggle for Identity in the Major Works of Richard Wright.”  He taught popular courses at GW on Wright, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison and others (and, as GW Today notes in a piece accessible here, while an undergraduate at Brown, Jim had met Ellison himself).  In 2009, Jim was a Fulbright Scholar in the Department of English/School of Literature and Language Studies at the University of The Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.  He received the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award from GW in 2008 and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching District of Columbia Professor of the Year Award in 2002.  In 2012, he received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Buffalo’s Alumni Association Award.  At the time of his death, Jim was completing a new project on trans-Atlantic Black cultural production, studying musicians and writers with connections to South Africa, England, and the United States. 

We want to honor these many accomplishments, of course, but Jim's colleagues and friends have also been searching for the words to describe what a gentle, kind, thoughtful man he was.  We feel his loss profoundly:  everyone in the English Department ended up in Jim's office at some point, because everyone valued his advice, his wisdom, his quick wit.  Rest in Peace, Jim Miller.  We love you and we miss you.