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Africa Writes Back

James Currey was the Editorial Director at Heinemann Educatio­nal Books in charge of the African Writers Series from 1967 to 1984.

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17 June 2008 was the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart by Heinemann. This provided the impetus for the foundation of the African Writers Series (AWS) in 1962 with Chinua Achebe as the Editorial Adviser.

The African Writers Series almost single-handedly jump-started the rapid surge in African literary creativity by putting into print more than 300 works in less than twenty years. Almost all this writing was new and it came from nearly every corner of the continent. The availability of these books throughout the world made it possible for universities and secondary schools to begin to teach courses on African literature; in Africa itself this led to a profound transformation of the curriculum in English. A whole new discipline of literary studies quickly emerged. None of this would have happened so rapidily and so successfully had it not been for the pioneering role played by AWS.