On January 8, 2022, The Modern Language Association of America presented the MLA-Roth Award for Translation of a Literary Work to Clint Bruce for his translation of Afro-Creole Poetry in French from Louisiana’s Radical Civil War-Era Newspapers: A Bilingual Edition, published by the Historic New Orleans Collection with University of Virginia Press. This translation highlights a little-known, influential community of French-speaking free people of color and their civil rights struggle dating from the Civil War. This collection of 79 original works by more than a dozen activist authors highlights the important role of New Orleans’ radical Afro-Creole newspaper L’Union and its successor La Tribune de la Nouvelle-Orléans.
Hailed as “a book of tremendous historical value,” Bruce offers “a masterful guidepost to a sophisticated civil rights movement.” In announcing the award, the selection committee described the significance of the collection and praised Bruce’s translation:
Afro-Creole Poetry in French from Louisiana’s Radical Civil War-Era Newspapers is an extraordinary publication, combining archival research with remarkably accomplished translations. Clint Bruce brings to light a little-known tradition of political poetry by Afro-Creole poets of Louisiana—French-speaking poets of color—in radical Civil War– era newspapers, considerably enriching our understanding of America’s plurilingual past. The work offers new insight into connections among literary communities in the Caribbean, France, and Louisiana; moreover, it is a handsomely produced book, with annotations, illustrations, and a beautifully written historical and literary introduction. The poetry comes from a lyrical tradition that is no longer current, and Bruce does not attempt to modernize the language but rather responds to and echoes the political and poetic language of the original. Attentive to the complexities of form, he (re-)creates stirring and sensitive verse.