Barbara Christian was born on December 12, 1943 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. She earned her Ph.D. in English Literature from Columbia University in 1970; a year later, she became an assistant professor at U.C. Berkeley. She was a prominent figure in establishing the African American Studies Department, and in 1978 she became the first African American woman at Berkeley to receive tenure. In 1986, she became a full professor and eventually received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1991. She is best known for Black Feminist Criticism and her study, Black Women Novelists: The Development of a Tradition . She was one of the first academic professors to focus attention on Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, among other black women novelists and writers. She edited portions of the Norton Anthology of African American Literature from the 1970s to the 1990s. The MELUS Award and the American Book Award were among the many honors she received during her lifetime. She taught at U.C. Berkeley from 1972 until her death on June 25, 2000. She is survived by her daughter, Najuma I. Henderson.
From the guide to the Barbara Christian papers, 1967-2000, (The Bancroft Library)