Deadline: March 1, 2022

The Frances “Frank” Rollin Fellowship for African American Biography is named for the first known African American biographer and is awarded to promote biographies of African American lives.

The fellowship’s namesake, Frances Anne Rollin Whipper — who wrote under her nickname-turned-pen name “Frank A. Rollin” — was a 19th-century author and activist. Her groundbreaking 1868 biography, Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delany, about a Black abolitionist journalist, physician, and Union Army officer, positioned her as the first recorded African American biographer. Reception to her book in the Black press underscored the significance of her precedent and called for more biographies of African Americans. This fellowship, in her honor, seeks to carry on that call.


In the spirit of Rollin’s achievement, BIO’s Rollin Fellowship aims to foster the development of biographical works that encourage deeper insight into the complexity of race relations at the bedrock of American history. This fellowship will support any biography that highlights the Black experience in the Americas, and that is set within the vast time period between (and even before) 1619 and the present. It will support any aspect of African American inhabitancy, dispersion, immigration, or emigration. It will support biographies of Black lives often marginalized by gender, gender orientation, sexuality, or disability.

The Fellowship will be given for the second time in May 2022. Judges for the 2022 prize are distinguished biographers Eric K. Washington, chair; Tamara Payne; and Adam Henig. The first winner is Rachel L. Swarms for her multigenerational biography of an enslaved Black family torn apart by the 1838 slave sale that saved Georgetown University from financial ruin.


The Frances “Frank” Rollin Fellowship awards $2,000.


  • Biographers anywhere in the world who are writing in English.
  • Who are working on a biography of an African American figure (or figures)
  • Who are at any stage in the writing of a book-length biography. A publishing contract is not required for eligibility. Biography as defined for this prize is a narrative of an individual’s life or the story of a group of lives.
  • Innovative ways of creating a life (or lives) will be considered at the committee’s discretion.
  • Memoirs are not eligible.

Eligible RegionsOpen for All

APPLICATION PROCESS for The Frances “Frank” Rollin Fellowship

  • Follow the apply now link for the application form.
  • Upload the following submission materials in a single document:
    • Project description (500 words or less): provide a synopsis of the biography and explain how this biographical work fits into the mission of the Rollin Fellowship
    • Statement of need (500 words or less): describe where you are in the process of writing and how you and your work would benefit from the Rollin Fellowship; if your work is not yet under contract, please include your plans for publication
    • Author bio (500 words or less)
    • Excerpt from your manuscript (no more than 20 pages)
  • Your document should be double-spaced, with 12-point type and standard margins. The document must be a PDF.
  • Please follow the official link for further details.


Click Here To Apply